Day 1

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come to help because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together.” - Lilla Watson

(Producer's note: The following journal entry, written Dec. 17, contains the director's reflections on our first day, Dec. 15)

At La Guardia we sat waiting for our first plane to Miami, across from a troubled looking young man.  Or maybe I was projecting.  I was worried for sure. Setting off to make a documentary at an orphanage in a crime ridden industrial city in Honduras with a small crew, a small (and as yet un-raised) budget, and an even smaller idea of what we would find there, nevertheless make a movie about.  I got up to get a NY Times at the news stand.  I figured a last perusal of the first world's emblematic paper would calm my nerves.  As I reached for the paper I saw the Newtown school headline and let the paper drop.  Of course I'd heard about it all day but I was in one of those increasingly common disassociated states (for me) concerning insanely violent mass murders committed by Americans.  This covers a lot of ground and history I know but I have to confess I have trouble taking them in anymore.  But this one of course hit home.  Children.  Beyond.  I've grown up reading about and to be honest, at times somewhat obsessed over events like the Jonestown Massacre, Oklahoma City, and the Unabomber.  So my first thought when hearing about Newtown was why?  Why target kids?  I pondered it for a moment and then shut down.  How many hard drives would I need down there.  Was Medi-vac insurance really necessary?  Should I back up the Lemon Eucalyptus bug repellent with some 100% Deet?  When was my last Typhus vaccination?  And what about Dengue?

I wandered back to the waiting area and joined Cassidy Friedman, my youngest step-brother and the  producer of this project.  I mentioned not being able to buy the paper and he nodded.  Cassidy spent ten years as a journalist.  As we talked a bit about the shooting, the young man across from us looked up.  "I was there," he said.  "I grew up two doors down."  We looked at him blankly.  "In Newtown," he continued.  "I took the bus with him.  With Lanza.  I was in his brother's grade.  We took the bus every day.  He was weird.  Adam once said he wanted to bomb me."  He looked across the terminal at an approaching young woman.  "My girlfriend... She's a nanny..."  His voice trailed off as a pretty dark haired woman of around 20 approached and sat down next to him.  They both began to speak.  She too grew up in Newtown and still lives there.  She's an au pair for a family there.  The six-year-old boy went to Sandy Hook.  She dropped him off at the bus yesterday morning.  She related this calmly but with occasional interjections about the killer being pure evil and that she would never try to understand why.  Never.

She said the boy's mother was out of town and hadn't seen her son that morning.  That was when she started to cry and to describe the little boy and the way he had looked as he got on the bus and the type of boy he was.

The couple admitted they were conflicted.  They were getting out.  Away.  They'd planned this vacation 8 months ago.  They'd never been to the Virgin Islands.  They'd thought about canceling but they just had to go.  The young woman said tried calling the boy's mother several times yesterday after she heard the news and again this morning before leaving for the airport.  She'd left messages.
We continued speaking until the final boarding was announced.  I told them where we were going and a little about the project.  The young woman started to smile and said she was glad she ran into us.  That what we were doing made her feel better.  We wished them both luck and told them to relish the soft warmth of the Caribbean.  And the snorkeling.  A world away from the world.

We left Miami at dusk.  Looking down on the hotels and South Beach I said a little goodbye to my own comfort zone.  The flight seemed very short and the captain announced that we were 100 miles from the airport.  I looked out the window and saw a city on the coast far away.  "La Ceiba," said Cassidy.  As we descended I looked in vain for San Pedro Sula.   From the air it looked like we were landing in an empty field.  A few lights but little sign of a city and its almost one million residents.  Where were the barrios, the gangs, the narco traffickers that have turned this city into today's Medallion?   "Homicide capital of the world.  #1 with a bullet" seemed to be all I'd been told the last few months.

The drive to the Orphanage is bumpy and full of the third world swerves and casual near collisions that our driver Jose handles effortlessly.   I struggle with his rapid Spanish but realize he's a gold mine of info, history and stories.  Cassidy peppers him with questions and I look out the window at another dark stretch of fields.  Between patches of big box chain stores and Puma gas stations (wait, the logo... the sneakers?) there are expanses of nothing.  Nada.  Darkness.  A wave of "Christ, what have I done?" breaks over me.  We pull up to a huge steel gate that the headlights reveal clearly is riddled with small deep dents.  Bullets?   Obviously.  An older man with a large pistol stuck in his belt opens the gate for us and nods warmly at me as we drive in.  I brace myself for the arrival at the new center of my universe: el orfanato.  The orphanage.