News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Mark Bennett Opinion

July 17, 2010

Mark Bennett: ‘Don’t ever forget, there’s no place like America’

TERRE HAUTE — The view of Earth through the window of a spacecraft had to be profound for the Apollo astronauts.

Somewhere on that multicolored sphere was home. Somewhere, ocean waves rolled. People drove cars, worked, loved, laughed, fought, suffered, prayed, gave birth and died. Elephants roamed. Criminals stole things. Planes landed. Forests sat silent.

But from space, the planet just looked deep blue and green, with swirls of white icing.

It’s easy to forget to appreciate what we have in our corner of the world, especially in a tough economy. This month, as America celebrated its independence, I received a couple reminders seen by folks from a different view.

On a family vacation to the Bahamas, we stood outside a church undergoing remodeling. As rain began to fall, the construction manager stopped for a moment to talk with us — obviously curious American tourists. He was a Bahamaian native, but spent 20 years working in the United States.

“In America, anyone can become successful. You can go there with nothing, and become rich. That doesn’t guarantee you will, but you have opportunity,” he said, wiping sweat and raindrops from his face. “If you want to come here and be wealthy, you better bring your money.

“Don’t ever forget,” he added, with emphasis in his Caribbean accent, “there’s no place like America.”

Our family left for our vacation on Fourth of July eve. That day, Ron Keegan — a Prairieton resident, like us — returned home after spending three months in Haiti, clearing rubble and rebuilding structures following January’s devastating earthquake. A heavy equipment operator by trade and a member of Maryland Community Church, Ron saw things few of us could imagine.

He worked for Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian disaster relief agency. His primary logistical mission was to build a compound to serve as a base of operations for the organization’s medical, water and sanitation, food distribution and shelter programs. He was based in L’Acul (pronounced “la-cool”), which is about 30 miles from the capital city, Port-au-Prince, but just 10 miles from the epicenter of the Jan. 12 quake.

Six months after a catastrophe that killed 230,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless, there’s a sense of urgency to get things done.

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