18 January 2010

When you least expect it....

Sometimes life just happens.
I have been meaning to post a few recipes here for while. I try to always stay on topic here because I started this blog to try and bring a bit more recognition to our "off the beaten path" part of Italy's alps. But today I'm going rogue.  I will return to regularly scheduled programming about life in the alps, the food and drink of Piedmont, people, places, and fun events shortly.  However, today it's about my all American  family, the Gulley kids from southern Illinois.
You see, all of my big brothers have always meant the world to me and have all not only been my protectors, they have oftentimes, teased and tormented me, as you do when you are kids.  I imagine they will tell you a different side of the story, being that I managed to hold my own. They might even tell you a few other tales about me, being the baby and all, but you know how unreliable those childhood stories can be!
They, along with my parents who are no longer with us,  have been my guides, teachers and inspiration thoughout my entire life. Individually, they are unique and compassionate strong men that live their lives with integrity and honor.  They alongside their spouses, children and grandchildren and my the ever expanding extended family, cousins, aunt, in addition to my assorted family members, are an interesting and talented group of individuals that enriches my life in ways that are difficult to express, though clearly, I am proud to be a part of our far flung, multi-layered, loosely knit family.  I've always said that we are close in a loose sort of way, since we are scattered around the US and me over her in the outpost of Italy.
This rest of this post's focus is on my middle brother, who was known as Jimmie when we were growing up, became Dr. James L Gulley as a professional, but to most of us, he's Jim, Jim Gulley.

Jim, Dallas. Gerry and me, Marla squirming

When you least expect it something so unimaginable happens that it's almost hard to comprehend what life was like before the event, especially in the middle of it happening.
Wednesday morning January 13, I awoke to the news there had been an earthquake in Haiti. It didn't take long for the panic to set in.  I knew my brother, Jim was to have flown down there for meetings with representatives of other international organizations, strategizing to improve various humanitarian services in Haiti and on this occasion, health. I didn't know much more than that, at the time. I learned quite a lot over the course of the next few days, when it became clearer that he was indeed missing and most likely in the Hotel Montana where many international conferences and meetings regularly take place.
I'm not going to tell all of his story, as he can and has been doing so, far better than I could, since we learned that he was indeed alive, truly alive. It truly is a miracle beyond our brightest hope that he has survived with very minor injuries, when so many others, including some in his immediate group were not so fortunate. He has returned home and is recovering in the comfort of his home with his family. Our joy is tempered by the heart crushing loss of life and seeming inability to get relief to such an extraordinary amount of people. It is really almost beyond comprehension. Jim's survival and rescue is miraculous and has touched Fabrizio and I along with many others in a way that reaffirms the resiliency of the human spirit and faith that we need each other to not only survive but to thrive.  My brother, with the unflagging support of his wife Nancy, along with their 3 sons, has spent his whole career, working towards nurturing other people's ability to help themselves, overcoming obstacles, providing information and tools, creating opportunities and support systems to encourage the most disadvantaged people to be able to thrive under the least likely conditions.

A brief synopsis of the events which doesn't do full justice to the anguish that they experienced, is as follows.  My brother and four other associates arrived at the Hotel Montana and were chatting and catching with one another as they walked across the lobby of the Hotel Montana to dine in the hotel's restaurant, when the earthquake hit. In the blink of an eye they were buried under rebar and concrete beams as the ceiling collapsed on top of them pinning some of them and confining all to an extremely small space. They spent the next 55 excruciating hours in utter darkness, passing the time speculating on their rescue, praying, singing together and fervently hoping that they would be found, and please, heavenly father, please please, be rescued.
We, his extended family were doing the same, via email, shared news reports, skype and obsessively watching the news and trolling the internet for information and tidbits of hope. There are still many families who are doing these same things, even now as the glimmer of hope diminishes with each passing day. Others who have been given the news no one ever wants to hear and the most unimaginable amount of people that are suffering from the lack of the most basic of human needs, clean water, food and shelter, are still living and many not, as the time passes, through this catastrophe.
From this horror our loved one has been spared, and we are exceedingly grateful. Our suffering pales in comparison, and we are mindful of this along with the sheer indescribable joy we feel to have Jim still in our lives. I know that he still has much that he expects to accomplish and will, of this I am certain, as his whole adult life has been centered around development work.
Short and partial list,
Missionary in Nigeria focused on agricultural development,
IITA , in Ibadan, Nigeria, in the field training to promote sustainable agricultural practices, traveling through out a good portion of Africa, nurturing these programs.
More recently he has helped establish an on going West African project in Summit County alongside his consultancy role with GWGM, in which he has on going development projects in both Cambodia and Haiti.
You see, I can't him sitting still for too long.

Jimmie and Marla S
at Bonnie church camp most likely

My brother and two of his colleagues, Rev. Clinton Rabb and Rev. Sam Dixon, who were also trapped under the rubble, all worked for GBGM, the United Methodist church's Global Board of Global Ministries,  a comprehensive umbrella organization, supporting numerous programs for community and human needs. UMCOR, is the relief branch of GBGM and has had a long and continued relationship with Haiti. They work in cooperation with many other humanitarian agencies, like IMA World Health, for whom, Rick Santos and Dr. Sharla Chand, were representing and were the other two of the trapped group.
UMCOR is mobilized and providing aid in Haiti now.
If you would like to contribute to UMCOR's  immediate or long term commitment to provide relief to those in need, you may confidently do so by giving to  

Jim, Marla Nancy
Halloween and celebrating Nancy being 1 year cancer free

Friends Ayla  and Anda Gulley
(Jim & Nancy's granddaughter on right)
 Independently decided to raise funds for Haiti
by selling cookies and origami penguins
They raised $100.06 to donate
Very impressive indeed

Here is my list of stories about, Jim Gulley, my brother's, experience:

Video from ABC "Good Morning America" shortly after their rescue
Video of ABC interview
The Guardian

Denver Post
Summit Daily News
Denver Post article when they arrive in Colorado and details of their rescue
    Summit Daily News accounts of his return home
    United Methodist Church website
    MSNBC article on Dan Wolley, who was nearby them in the elevator shaft


        Debby Zuber said...

        What a touching tribute to your brother and family! I especially enjoyed the pictures. Although this has been a frightening experience for you all, this blog will be a reminder of the the day the Gulley Family's life was redefined.
        May God bless you all and Jim's work.

        Debby Zuber

        Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

        This is a very heartwrenching and frightening story Marla. We are so happy that it was a positive outome for you and your family.

        Bella Baita Marla said...

        Thanks Debby and Val, these things reminds me to savor every precious moment as if it might be your last. Not so easy to always remember.

        Proud Italian Cook said...

        Marla I'm so happy for you and your family that your brother was spared from this tragedy. I can't imagine all that he endured. It makes you realize how precious life is. He sounds like a wonderful man, the way you described him here.

        Rowena said...

        Marla I am relieved to learn that there was a happy ending to your brother's story - I just can't imagine what you must have been going through before word got out to you and your family. On the day the quake hit, we got a call soon afterwards from some friends in Novara...they thought that I was from Haiti, not Hawaii (I suppose all tropical places sound alike, eh?) and wanted to be sure that my family was okay.

        I hope you'll be able to reunite with family soon? It should be wonderful to give Jim a hug!

        Kurdistan said...

        Amazing story
        i love this post

        Martha said...

        Marla, I'm so sorry to hear about your brother but happy that he is alive. That must have been very scary. I will make a donation through the link you posted.

        Bella Baita Marla said...

        I am so grateful for all of your comments. It has been an interesting journey. Much to be grateful for and much still to be done for the Haitians. Thank you Martha for your donation.

        joe@italyville said...

        So glad it turned out well for you and your family Marla... the situation is such a tragedy. Thank God for people like your brother who give so much of themselves to help others.

        Anne in Oxfordshire said...

        A very happy ending for your brother and his collegues..and all your family. All the prayers were answered.

        Bella Baita Marla said...

        Thanks Joe, it really is a tragedy of epic proportions, so very sad.
        Thank you Anne, my brother was incredibly fortunate. Unfortunately 2 of his colleagues that were with him were not so fortunate and didn't make it, making his survival all the more poignant and precious. We hold Rev. Sam Dixon and Rev. Clint Rabb's families in our thoughts and hearts. I just couldn't bear to write that part of the story in the main part of the story.

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