R.I.P., Walt Ratterman
A few weeks ago I wrote about my friend Walt Ratterman, who was at the Hotel Montana in Haiti when the earthquake hit. Walt’s wife Jeanne received an email only 10 minutes before the quake, which placed him in the courtyard, where he would have been OK. After the quake there was an eerie silence. We all assumed that Walt was helping those injured in the quake and that he and his friends would surface when they got a break. Those who knew Walt understand the passion he brought to many relief operations. Walt was known for sneaking into Myanmar in the bottom of a boat where, if discovered, he would have been summarily executed. Walt was the subject of the documentary Beyond the Call, which showed him braving Afghanistan a month after 9/11, Myanmar, and the most dangerous region of the Philippines.
Walt’s love of helping people who, for no fault of their own, couldn’t help themselves caused him to relocate his family to the West Coast, to be better able to continue his work. Walt traveled the world to help the needy, visiting Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America. Each time he brought food, medical relief, and solar power, and had a sustaining impact on all the lives he touched. Walt was part of a team brought into Haiti by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) to bring solar power to Haiti. Walt was working there on several projects, including a few hospitals where electricity brought them out of the dark ages, allowing them to perform surgeries and other treatments that were unavailable in Haiti previously. Many of the projects were completed prior to the quake and provided much-needed support for the injured, saving countless lives.
The great irony is that Walt almost never stayed in nice hotels. He stayed with those he helped.
The men and women who loved Walt mobilized to raise money and travel to Haiti. My own readers have been very generous. Six teams made their way at various times throughout the search and rescue phase of the operation. Each of those teams brought much-needed food, water, or medical relief. Dr. Sir James Laws hired a bus in the Dominican Republic and loaded it with bottled water that was given to many who were thirsty in Haiti. Sir Edward Artis loaded a 20-foot truck with food and braved the road from the Dominican Republic as well, in spite of reports of looting and hijacking of other vehicles on the road. The first team was given the emotional task of handling the morgue at the Hotel Montana. Without complaining, each member of that team stepped up and did what was asked of them. Each night this team cried themselves to sleep from the emotional toll of dealing with the dead that day. Each of the Knights and friends of Walt reached out to their entire networks and brought awareness to the search for Walt and the hundreds of others trapped in the rubble at the Hotel Montana.
As time wore on it became obvious that a miracle wasn’t meant to be. Hope gave way to preparation for the inevitable. Walt’s backpack and laptop were found a few days before his body was discovered. And then there was a wait for positive identification, before dental records confirmed that Walt was a casualty of the devastating earthquake. He was one of more than two hundred thousand souls separated from their bodies in that quake. No doubt Walt was busy in the spirit world, calming and organizing this mass of men, women, and children for their trek to meet their maker.
Each of us who has been involved in the life of Walt, and now with his untimely death, knows that he lived a life of honor and that he died doing the work that he loved. His death was certain to be a death of honor because of the way he chose to live his life. Each of us has the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to living our lives in a manner more aligned with the values that Walt applied every day he was here. Walt stared death in the face so many times and lived, that we all expected him to be immortal. Each of us has limited time on this planet, and we can use Walt’s example to make that time count.
You, gentle reader, have given generously to make a great deal of difference in Haiti and over the years to Knightsbridge. Would you join me one more time to honor the life and work of our fallen hero Walt Ratterman? The world does not have enough Walts, and he will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Please make your generous donations today, by sending a check made out to “Steps for Recovery” but clearly marked “FOR KNIGHTSBRIDGE / HAITI” to:
Steps For Recovery
P.O. Box 67522
Century City, CA 90067
(A California 501(c) 3 Tax Exempt Corporation
Federal ID # 95.4472343)
Or you can make an immediate ONLINE donation via PayPal, by going to the Knightsbridge website, located at: KBI.org and hitting the Donate icon found there.