Philip Rucker: Haiti Holds a Special Place in the Clintons' Hearts





In the strange circle of life, it all comes back to Haiti.

When Bill Clinton married Hillary Rodham in 1975, a friend gave them a trip to Haiti. Since that honeymoon vacation, the Caribbean island nation has held a life-long allure for the couple, a place they found at once desperate and enchanting, pulling at their emotions throughout his presidency and in her maiden year as secretary of state.

With the world's attention now trained on the devastated Haitian capital, rebuilding the country will be a central part of Bill and Hillary Clinton's lives going forward. And for the 42nd president, the catastrophe offers the opportunity to fulfill whatever unrealized ambitions he has for the long-suffering nation.

"This is a personal thing for us," Bill Clinton said in a interview Thursday. He said he and his wife have "always felt a special responsibility" for Haiti and its 9 million people. "She has the same memories I do. She has the same concerns I do. We love the place."

On that first trip in December 1975, Clinton said he and his wife watched as a wreath was placed at the national monument to celebrate Haitian Independence Day. They toured the old hotel where the writer Ernest Hemingway once stayed and visited a voodoo high priest dressed in all white. They sat in a lonely pew of the Port-au-Prince National Cathedral, which lies in ruin following Tuesday's earthquake....

When the Clintons learned that sites in Port-au-Prince they had visited as tourists were destroyed in the earthquake and locals they had come to know were injured or unaccounted for, Bill Clinton said he was "personally emotionally affected." His wife, he said, became "physically sick."...


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