PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Everywhere Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert looked, he saw pain he can’t forget.
The NBA’s only Haitian-born player arrived in his home country Jan. 21 with former NBA star Alonzo Mourning as part of Project MediShare. He watched a leg amputation and people having operations on flimsy kitchen tables. Flies and filth were everywhere.
|TRYING TO BE STRONG —Haiti native Samuel Dalembert, of the Philadelphia 76ers, hugs Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, as he presents her with a check for $100,000 to aid relief efforts in Haiti, Jan. 15, in Philadelphia.
Mostly, he’ll remember the children, many recently orphaned, with desperate looks on their faces. The 6-11, 250-pound Dalembert wept.
“I tried to be strong,” said Dalembert, who returned to Philadelphia for last Thursday’s 98-90 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. “But that was enough for me. There are a lot of homeless children looking for families, and the situation is so critical there. So many people lost everything. I know people are doing their best to help, but it’s crazy over there.”
Though he planned to leave last week, air traffic issues forced him to push the return trip to 1 a.m. last Wednesday, when he flew out on a cargo plane. Hours later, a massive aftershock shook the island. Arriving in Miami at 4 a.m., his father phoned a few hours later with the news and to tell him he was okay
Dalembert has a brother, sister and grandmother, all of whom have left the island and are in Miami. His father is staying.
“He’s going to do whatever he can to help down there,” Dalembert said. “We need to work together to make this thing happen. I do my best. I can try and raise as much money as possible and make sure it’s going to the right place.”
Working on almost no sleep, Dalembert arrived at the Wachovia Center 15 minutes before the game, joining his teammates for the final minute of warm-ups. He had 10 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out with 1:18 left.
“He’s a great person. He’s a doing a lot for his country and a lot for his teammates,” teammate Allen Iverson said. “He’s got a lot on his shoulders, but he’s carrying the load. We all feel for what he’s going through.”
Dalembert is not sure when he may sleep well again, something he hasn’t done since the quake struck Jan. 12. He won’t stop helping until he feels there’s nothing more he can do. He’s already donated more than $130,000, and said he plans to donate $250,000.
He urged others to donate.
“I know I’m not going to save the whole country, but I know deep inside that we need to do more,” he said. “Maybe we can save some lives, and make others just a little bit better.
“There’s no recovery room (after surgery), forget about that. You hear screaming. They’re numbing people down. There’s not enough alcohol. There’s glass (from broken windows) everywhere. People haven’t had water for days. The people there are so strong. I salute them all. God is watching over us, and will help us get through this.”