This evening, I’ve been chatting with @ciphersankofa, who is from Long Beach, NY, about the “American Airlines/Fly Doctors Free To Haiti” meme. Specifically, we’ve been talking about the broadcasting of the consulate telephone number. At 11.34 am on Wednesday, @ciphersankofa tweeted:
Medical professionals are needed in Haiti. Airlines are working with consulate. Call 212-697-9767 to volunteer.
He says nothing about airlines flying doctors and nurses to Haiti for free, but his tweet with the call for volunteers was widely retweeted. And it seems to be the first (Jan 13, 2010 07:34 PM GMT) to provide the Consulate phone number. The first tweet that I have found that links the phone number with American Airlines was posted five hours later. (Let me digress for a moment and whine about Twitter’s timestamp system; when it’s not GMT, what time zone is it? The one where it was sent? The one where it is being read?)
According to @ciphersankofa, during a mid-afternoon NYC press conference that was streamed live on CNN, Haitian Consul General Felix Augustin responded to a question about a hotline by saying “to call the consulate.” No one else seems to have reported it. (Here’s CNN’s news updates post, for example.)
In addition, according to @ciphersankofa, Augustin also said that “AA and JetBlue were donating transport for 1st day.”
The Epoch Times article about that press conference mentions only JetBlue, not American Airlines:
A non-profit organization based in New York, Give Them a Hand Foundation (GTAH), plans to transport medical personnel in cooperation with JetBlue.
However, the JetBlue announcement appears to have been premature. At 7.30 pm Wednesday, Julie Schwietert, managing editor of Matador Network, wrote (with some emphasis added):
Although New York’s Haitian Consul General Felix Augustin praised JetBlue for being the first airline to offer flights of emergency relief supplies and volunteers (which you can see in the video shot by Francisco Collazo at this afternoon’s press conference), JetBlue has not made a decision regarding Matador’s specific request. JetBlue’s community relations department is working closely with the Haitian Consulate in NYC, as well as established aid organizations, to determine the current and specific needs on the ground in Port-au-Prince, and to discern how everyone who is interested can be of the most help.
JetBlue has put Matador in touch with the Red Cross.
Matador will not take volunteers into Haiti without a confirmed volunteer placement with an established aid or service organization in Haiti. I have emailed JetBlue’s contact at the Red Cross, but have not yet received a response.
Julie also had an video excerpt from the press conference, where Augustin said (emphasis added):
We need medical supplies, we need heavy equipment …we need doctors, people in the medical field … we are in touch with Jet Blue … we are in touch with American Airlines …and they are ready to go as soon as the logistics can be met.
Still waiting to hear from @EntMag or @Star_Tym about their conflating the phone number with the “free” meme. I now need to do a search on American Airlines tweets that do not contain the consulate number: do they exist?
Update: @Star_Tym reports that his was a retweet. Trying to jog his memory — who sent the tweet that he retweeted. He has deleted his tweet, but here is a screen