Wearing a Nike visor, sunglasses, a crisp linen shirt and pressed jeans, Randal Perkins of Pompano Beach, Fla., watched with satisfaction as his $400,000 hydraulic excavator clawed into a towering pile of concrete chunks in the shattered heart of this city.
“This is what the people have been waiting for,” Mr. Perkins declared in his booming voice, sweeping his arm to take in a crowd of bystanders mesmerized for hours by the demolition and removal of a collapsed funeral home.
Mr. Perkins had been waiting, too, with increasing impatience, for the cleanup of Haiti to begin. Chief executive of a Florida-based disaster recovery firm, he had made a $25 million gamble that he could capitalize on the Jan. 12 earthquake. He had partnered with a Haitian conglomerate, imported a dozen shiploads of heavy equipment and set up a state-of-the-art base camp here — but then, nothing.
It has been obvious since January that clearing the wreckage is the necessary prelude to this country’s reconstruction, physically and psychologically. But the problem was so dauntingly big and complex that the government and donors got stuck in visionary mode, planning the future while the present remained mired in rubble.