After the first terrifying images from Haiti started to fill the news programs, the first ones to volunteer into assisting the Haitians were the 'Mole Men'.
Los Topos, A Mexican group of experts specializing in the rescue of victims trapped amid the rubble of collapsed structures, has its origin in 1985. That year, after the great earthquake that levelled many buildings in Mexico city, a lot of desperate neighbors had a terrible realization: the authorities were completely overwhelmed by the tragedy, and didn't show the expected leadership needed to undertake the rescue operations.
So, the neighbors decided to do things themselves.
Risking their own lives and with no tools but their bare hands, hundreds of men and women struggled to freed those trapped between a devilish maze of concrete and steel. At first they were trying to save their family members —wives, husbands, parents and children— but eventually they continued their efforts to help complete strangers.
If someone heard screams beneath the ruins, everybody laid a hand; they gave a second birth to the living, and they rescued the dead from their unholy graves.
The reasons were simple: there was no one else to do it.
A short while after that, the need to have a group of trained specialists who would be able to coordinate rescue parties after a major earthquake became more than evident —specially in a city built on top of a such seismically-active area! Thus, Los Topos were formed, with the very same brave civilians that risked life & limb during the Mexican catastrophe; trained by experts from Israel & France, they have been dispatched to 'ground-zero' areas all over the world since then.
To some lucky few, the sound of a Mole Man becomes the most beautiful thing in the world; their voice calming them and encouraging them to hang on becomes the voice of God himself.
These people are not paid for their efforts, mind you. They ask nothing in return; they leave their daily jobs whenever their help is needed.
Why do they keep doing it? I suspect that for the same reason Mother Teresa chose to devote her life to help the poorest among the poor. It is a mystery that to me suggests the human condition trascends the boundaries of visible matter.
So: now we go back to January of 2010. On the 14th, along with a shipment of supplies, the Mole Men were dispatched to Port-au-Prince. To do what they do best, and help as much people as they could.
...And after just 72 hours into the rescue mission, they are ordered to suspend all rescue operations.
The order came from the UN. Not only did they think it was unlikely to find any more survivors, but they also feared the rising escalation of vandalism and pillaging unleashed by the frantic survivors —it is for this reason that all rescue efforts had to be suspended after night-fall. They lacked enough soldiers to guarantee the protection of the brigades.
But in reality, the order uncovers an uglier truth: a complete lack of leadership & control in the chain of command; as usual, the UN is not up to the task.
Once again, the Mole Men were left alone. But this time, they have to follow orders, much to their regret.
In an interview given to Reforma on Jan 18th, Carlos Morales, chief of the group —the Top Mole, as it were— disclosed his frustration:
"There is no control whatsoever, there's an awful lack of organization, we already took out 6 live persons from the University & now they are ordering us to return to base over a few gun shots."
"Right now we were in the process of rescuing the father of the First Lady. We left him serum to survive, but they forced us to pull back" he regrets.
The veteran rescuer of 60-something years old (working alongside his 24-year-old daughter, courage seems to run in the family) showed his disagreement with the UN's concern over the welfare of the rescuers:
"The people protect you because they know we're here to help them, but the Un is blocking the rescues."
"You have to be among the ruins to understand what the vicim is going through, let's imagine a person hears our rescuing machinery. The person gets excited. And what happens next if they stop hearing them?"
Indeed, what would go through the mind of such a victim. Maybe to them, noticing the rescuers leave might be as is God himself is turning away. What they have already gone through would be nothing compared to the Hell of feeling you're left alone —the most lonely person in the Universe.
On today's paper, Reforma informed the rescue brigades are beginning to return to Mexico. Though some of them will remain in Haiti, they will now focus mainly on the distribution of food rations & medicines.
Were the UN too hasty in calling off the rescue operations? True, after a whole week, the odds of finding live survivors are very slim.
And yet, miracles can happen. In the earthquake of 1985, 16 babies were rescued from the ruins of a hospital. They were nicknamed "the children of the quake"; they were rescued after 7 days of the event, and they became a symbol of hope for the Mexican people.
Some people were even rescued after 12 days.
Yes, miracles can happen; But NOT when you chop off the wings of guardian angels.