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Apocalypse then

Everybody wants to save the children. It's the cliche that tipped the point that jumped the shark in a perfect storm.

But few people, however well intentioned, actually bestir themselves from the sofa to aid those in distress. Most of us -- speaking first-person plurally -- make a tsk-tsk-ing sound, perhaps tap a PayPal button, and wish that man and the gods were less cruel.

And then there are those rare individuals who drop whatever they're doing and dash to the worst places on the planet to lend a hand.

Jonathan Nash Glynn, a well-known artist in this erstwhile whaling village, belongs to the latter demographic. On Jan. 13, 2010, the day after Haiti's horrific earthquake, Glynn was en route to South Florida in his single-engine Cessna when he had a change of heart. Stopping in Miami only long enough to find a temporary home for his co-pilot -- a dappled daschund named Lily -- Glynn grabbed some charts and turned his plane toward the heart of the apocalypse.

Not knowing whether he'd be able to find a landing strip, Glynn carried enough extra fuel to make it back to Turks and Caicos. In the first of many instances of providential reprieve, he found a place to set down in the seaside town of Jacmel. The "airport" was a small gravel and asphalt strip between two 10,000-foot mountain ranges where a twin-engine Piper crashed shortly after Glynn arrived.

How one decides to enter such a fray is, for most, not easily understood. For Glynn, it was a simple calculation: He had an airplane and time. Then things got complicated.

Upon arrival in Haiti, he learned that thousands of amputations were being undertaken with carpentry saws and no anesthesia or antibiotics. For the next 19 days, Glynn became an air force of one, transporting morphine, antibiotics and surgical saws.

Those life-saving days were life-altering for Glynn and also for 43 lucky Haitian children and their families. In the span of a year, Glynn has created a foundation -- Wings Over Haiti (WingsOverHaiti.org) -- through which he has raised about $100,000 for food, water and a school in Croix-des-Bouquet just north of Port-au-Prince.

Two partners, who found Glynn via Facebook, have been crucial to his success. Melissa McMullan, a sixth-grade teacher in Port Jefferson Station, is head of the Wings Over Haiti School. Her students in both countries work interactively as part of the school's mission to build learning partnerships. Co-director Shad St. Louis, a guidance counselor in Middletown, is a native of Croix-des-Bouquet whose mother slept with a machete at her side before the family escaped Haiti's political turmoil and emigrated to the United States when St. Louis was 12.

The artist, the teacher and the counselor understand that Haiti's hope rests with its children, who first need a full tummy and then a school. Glynn, an idealist without illusions, says he can't save the world, but he figures he can help 43 children get a toehold.

Ages 3 to 6, these lucky few now have five teachers and three laptops. They have food, which costs about $1 per day per child, and clean water, thanks to a new 70-foot well. They're learning to read and write.

Glynn and his team have big plans, if limited resources. They recently bought two acres on which they hope to build a new school and a medical center. They also hope to cultivate the land, thus providing work for the adults, food for the community and the possibility of a self-sustaining future.

It is a mere dent. A tiny drop of sweet water in a deep well of despair. But it is sure something.

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