Soundtrack to an Earthquake

Haitians Find Lifeline In Local Radio Station
by John Burnett

From the moment the earthquake struck in Haiti, one radio station has been on the air around the clock acting as a lifeline for Haitians in Port-au-Prince and around the world on the Internet. Signal FM 90.5 has evolved into a community bulletin board for missing person reports, rescues, body collection, survival tips and solace.

Mario Viau, who started the station 18 years ago, has become somewhat of a hero over the past two weeks. Graffiti on the wall outside the station in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petionville reads: "Viv Mario" ("Long live Mario").

"We were just like the phone; we were the phone of the country," says the 52-year-old owner and general manager. "There were people on one side and people on the other side, and we were just the instrument in the middle that was saying exactly what was going on in Haiti."

When the quake struck at 4:53 p.m. on Jan. 12, Signal FM was playing "Hotel California." The Earth groaned and the building shuddered, but just before the DJ ran out, he had the presence of mind to hit the "repeat" button.

So for the first 30 minutes of Port-au-Prince's descent into hell, the only thing you could hear on the radio was the Eagles' standard — over and over and over.

Read the full NPR story here.

No comments: