On Tuesday night, Jan. 12, my children were just sitting down for dinner when I saw an ominous newswire on my Blackberry: "Major earthquake hits Haiti."
I did what we reporters always do. I checked the temperatures (85 degrees, wow), talked to my bosses and threw a bunch of clothes in a suitcase after I got the go-ahead. I kissed my kids and ran out the door to make a flight to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic at 9 p.m. -- just a few hours after the quake hit. Luckily, I grabbed a small knapsack with hand sanitizer, a pack towel and other assorted supplies that would end up being lifesavers in those initial days.
My 7-year-old son helped me pack my socks. As it would turn out, there were not enough pairs.
On the first day that my producer and I arrived in Port-au-Prince, the stench of death and destruction was overwhelming. It seeps into everything -- your hair, your clothes, your bag, your reporter's notebook.
There are no words to describe some of the things we saw. As a mother, the hardest part was seeing partially draped bodies of children. Or a stray doll tossed in the rubble.
Television video can't possibly capture the enormity of the devastation, the scale of human suffering.
But I could tell stories of individuals, of some of the people who lived in all those shattered homes.
Kevin and Nazer were watching television when the quake hit. A cell phone video shows them dancing around to some kind of rap song. Such cute kids.
We watched for six hours as rescuers from a Miami-Dade search and rescue team went in after them. The homeowner had heard them tapping deep in the rubble.
When we learned that 5-year-old Kevin had already died, I was crushed; I broke down.
But then we saw little Nazer coming out. He was frightened and woefully skinny. He complained that he'd lost his front tooth. But he was alive.
In my broken French I asked "ca va?" -- how are you? -- and Nazer gave a weak thumbs-up.
The next day we went looking for Nazer at the hospital we had heard he was taken to. It was a mess. There is no system of patient registration. The injured are treated inside and then left to fend for themselves in the yard outdoors.
"I mean we're just throwing people anywhere and everywhere," a Canadian aid worker told me.
When I found Nazer he was baking in the sun, lying on a cot with his injured mother and 3-year-old brother Ricky. This emaciated little man, saved after five days in darkness, had not been given any food since his rescue from the rubble the night before.
"Is this a country?" his mother's friend shouted.
We moved Nazer's bed into the shade. He told me candy is his favorite food, and he likes to go to church. He never once complained. In fact, he smiled and laughed.
With doctors' permission, I ran to the car and grabbed all the food and water we had. His mother accepted it gladly. But I wondered how much longer they would be in this spot.
Every day there were emotional lows and highs.
I watched rescuers run into the hospital with 2-year-old Carla, who was laid out on an old ironing board.
"She's going to be fine," a medic from Miami-Dade told me.