It has been eight years since a magnitude 7 earthquake devastated Haiti, but the aftermath is still top of mind for many — including Katie Couric. The journalist was dispatched to cover disaster in 2010, but she proved how close to home it still is while at the 14th annual Worldwide Orphans Gala in New York City on Monday night, where she was honored for her involvement in rescue and recovery efforts.
“I’m here tonight because of the special connection we have with a young man named Larousse Pierre, who I met after the earthquake happened in Haiti eight years ago. I was very affected by his plight. I was affected by his situation so much that I asked [Worldwide Orphans CEO and President] Jane [Aronson], because I was no longer in Haiti, if she could help or get involved. She intervened and literally saved his life,” Couric told InStyle. “I’m going to be reunited with him tonight having not seen him for eight years. He’s now a 21 year old healthy young man.”
At the time of the earthquake, Pierre was only 13 years old. He lost his dad as a young kid and his mom during the disaster, and when Couric first met him, he was having his broken leg reset without anesthesia or a cast.
“We couldn’t believe our eyes. The only adjective I could use to describe what I was seeing was ‘surreal.’ We drove into town and there were flattened buildings, rubble, and dazed Haitians everywhere. What was most daunting to me was the absence of sirens, no ambulances, firetrucks, or rescue workers,” Couric said during the evening’s program.
“As I quickly learned, these kinds of services didn’t exist in Haiti. And then, of course, there were bodies everywhere, some in piles, and some covered by sheets of metal that had once been roofs. I walked into a tent set up by a team of Belgian doctors where two dozen people were lying on stretchers or on the grass. My attention quickly turned to a confused 13-year-old with a handsome face wearing boxers and a T-shirt. His eyes were swollen and he had a big scrape on his forehead.”
That 13-year-old was Pierre, who survived the earthquake that killed 230,000 others. With Couric and Aronson’s help, Pierre was given safer housing and a financed education. Now he’s a few years out from graduating high school and hopes to be a civil engineer and social worker someday.
For the first time since since the earthquake recovery efforts, Couric and Pierre met face to face once again, and it was just as emotional as you’d imagine.
Pierre also took the stage to a standing ovation to talk about his experiences directly.
“I was lucky to meet a woman named Katie Couric. With the loss of my family, she was there to help me. In 2015, after my grandmother passed, Katie was there for me again,” he told the room.
“Thank you to Katie Couric, thank you to Dr. Jane, and thank you to WWO for saving my life.”
WWO raised well over $250,000 with the help of Couric and fellow attendees Naomi Watts, Amy Poehler, and LaChanze, but if you’d like to donate toward their efforts to help orphans, you can here.