"I don't know. It is a song of God."
Some in France are angered at U.S. "occupation" of Haiti, which has resulted in conflicts between each country's relief efforts, with priority going to American military, while French airbus hospitals and evacuation flights are being delayed.
The Elysée palace and Foreign Ministry are trying to calm the fuss, but the annoyance is palpable. Haiti may be in the US back yard, but France, the former colonial power, sees it as part of its overseas family. The Pearl of the Caribbean, as the colony was known, is part of la Francophonie, the French-speaking commonwealth that is run and financed from Paris. Haiti's writers, artists and musicians have close links to la Metropole and some 70,000 immigrants live in France.Apparently, President Sarkozy has stepped in to defuse the situation, praising America's relief efforts and pledging with President Obama to be united in their rescue mission in Haiti.
In spite of the dissension, the account of the near-miraculous rescue of Hoteline "Natalie" Losana, trapped in rubble for eight days, reveals that, on the ground, French and American crews are working together harmoniously.
Jean-Philippe Oustallet, from Biarritz, one of the first to reach her, said that the slab came to rest 2cm above her head and 10cm above her chest. She must have cried out every day but no one heard her until late on Tuesday morning.
We saw “Natalie’s” head first. Even from 30ft away, we could see that she was smiling. She was talking to her brother on her mobile phone. The Haitian team grasped the handles of her stretcher. The French formed two lines up a sloping slab to the flat section of roof from which her rescue had been organised. As they applauded, dust rose from their gloves. As she drew near, we heard her singing.
At first it was hard to believe. Her lips were scarcely moving, but the sound was unmistakably hers. The French followed her out, their faces caked in dirt, tears welling up for some, flowing uncontrollably for others.
As she went over the edge, Ms Losana filled her lungs and sang loudly enough for those below to hear over the generators. She was still singing at the bottom. I asked no one in particular what it was. “I don’t know,” said one of the exultant crowd of Haitians who helped her into the waiting ambulance. “It is a song of God.”