Watching Vice President Joe Biden land at Southwest Florida International
Vice President Joe Biden and air force ...
Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday urged Collier County residents to continue to support relief efforts in Haiti.
Biden, who was in Naples on Sunday for a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, said Americans need to continue to support the struggling nation as it tries to recover from last week’s devastating earthquake.
Biden’s visit came one day after a visit to the Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami, where he met with Haitian-American leaders, during which he assured them his administration was committed to Haiti’s recovery.
An off-the-record visit to Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church for a Saturday Mass, however, showed Biden how grateful the Haitian community is for the help.
Biden told the crowd Sunday that he arrived early for church Saturday night, in hopes of sneaking in the back and taking in the sermon. But church leaders heard he was there, and didn’t think a quiet Mass was appropriate.
Biden said the church brought in several choirs and officiants to celebrate Mass, during which they were “repeatedly giving thanks for all” the support.
“I found their gratitude overwhelming and staggering,” Biden said Sunday. “They reached out so warmly.”
They aren’t the only ones reaching out. Biden told the crowd that during a stop in the New Orleans area earlier this week, firefighters and police officers wondered what they could do to help.
“As I sat with these people, the first question they asked was what can we do in Haiti,” he said. “The fire department had been decimated (because of Hurricane Katrina). The police department was partially decimated, but they had police officers saying to me, ‘When can we go?’”
Biden encouraged people to donate money, instead of goods, to the cause in order to help rebuild the country.
“Not only keep them in your prayers, but be as generous as you have always been,” he said to a crowd of about 150. “If you have the choice between increasing your contribution to us, or sending it to the Haitian people, send it to the Haitian people. Send it to the Haitian people.”
The fundraiser was held at the home of Jack and Mona Antaramian. The event required a minimum donation of $1,000 to attend, and guests could contribute up to $10,000, a White House spokesperson said.
Mona Antaramian said earlier this week she and her husband continued to stay involved since the 2008 presidential campaign, and were pleased to host another fundraiser.
The couple played host to a fundraiser in October 2008, just weeks before the presidential election. Biden also appeared at that event.
“I’m committed to all eight years and the library,” Mona Antaramian said Sunday. “I believe in what they’re doing, and if any of you want to take the ride, I’m here.”
Biden arrived at the Antaramian’s house around 5:15 p.m. He flew into Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, where Air Force Two landed around 4:30 p.m.
The vice president’s arrival and departure were closed to the media, but some passers-by caught a glimpse of him as he deplaned Sunday afternoon.
Eric Pozner, 41, and his daughter Courtney, 8, pulled into Private Sky Aviation’s parking lot around 4 p.m. Sunday. The father and daughter — along with neighbors Will Farrell, 9, and Tieryn Farrell, 11 — craned their necks to see the runway from inside the car.
They were out shopping, but when they saw all the police cars near the airport they decided to see if they could get a glimpse of the vice president, Pozner said.
“I was explaining to them how it works when one of them comes into town,” he said. “We always watch if we can when one of them comes in. I saw a Secret Service plane fly over our house yesterday.”
The kids piled out of the car and ran to the black, metal fence to press their faces up against its bars and peer at the motorcade waiting on the tarmac. A helicopter buzzed around overhead.
Pozner homeschools his daughter, he said, so it’s a good opportunity to talk to her about politics.
“We’re conservative, but we still keep in touch with what’s going on and I think they’re doing a good job with the response to what’s happening in Haiti,” he said.
Fifteen minutes later, Pozner spotted a plane coming in and pointed it out to the kids. As it landed and taxied, the kids squealed and pointed, running along the fenced as it moved.
While the children could see people getting out of the plane and walking to cars waiting on the tarmac, it was too far away for the children to see which man was the vice president.