Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Everybody who knew French Canadian U.N. staffer Alexandra Duguay loved her. She was attractive, energetic and extremely intelligent. I got to know her well when she worked behind the media counter at U.N. headquarters. She was always eager to make sure we reporters had the latest resolutions, U.N. reports and speeches. And in the evening she enjoyed a glass of wine or beer at the Delegates Lounge. But she was bored with her job and wanted more adventure. One morning last spring she had an unusual twinkle in her eye. I asked her if something was up and she said yes. “I’m going to Haiti.” A few months later she had her going-away party at the U.N. Correspondents Association room. She and her boyfriend prepared for their imminent deployment to Haiti, where Alex was to be a spokeswoman and media coordinator for U.N. operations in the Western hemisphere’s poorest nation.
Alex quickly settled into her exciting new job. Late last year she emailed me an update of life in Port-au-Prince: “Even though it’s a bit of a s****y place, I can’t complain. I just spend too much time between my house and my hotel room, a.k.a. office. Yeah, we have peacocks as pets … Haitians are nuts. Lovely but nuts.”
Alex, 31, was one of dozens of U.N. workers who died after the peacekeeping mission’s headquarters in Haiti and other buildings collapsed during an earthquake on January 12. It was the biggest loss of life during a single event in the world body’s 65-year history.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the dead U.N. staffers a few days later when he visited the ruins of the 5-story Christopher Hotel, where the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had its offices, saying that he lacked the words to express his sorrow. Shortly after he left the site, where the stench of death hung thick in the air, a U.S. search-and-rescue team pulled a Danish man out of the rubble, dehydrated after five days without water or food, but alive and conscious.