PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The wife of a Roanoke Rapids man who was killed three years ago when a devastating earthquake struck Haiti has traveled to the island nation to honor her husband and help with the rebuilding.
Sam Dixon used to tell people he was just a country preacher, his wife, Cindy Dixon, recalls. But he was more than that – head of the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
He traveled the world, helping the poor.
"He could step off a plane in any part of the world, and he just felt comfortable," Cindy Dixon said. "And, in January (2010), he had flown down to Port Au Prince."
On Jan. 12, 2010, Sam Dixon was meeting with colleagues at the Montana Hotel.
"He said, 'I wish you could see the mountains today, Cindy. They're so beautiful,'" Cindy Dixon said. That was the last time she heard from her husband.
The earthquake hit. The hotel collapsed.
There was no word from her husband, Cindy Dixon said, but she didn't lose hope.
"I thought, 'He's somewhere where he cannot get to a phone, and Sam Dixon will get in touch with me as soon as he can,'" his wife said.
After two days, Cindy Dixon got word that her husband was found alive, but he had been stuck under rubble for 55 hours.
"We'd heard they found him ... We were joyous. We were hopeful. I was heading down there," Cindy Dixon said. "We all felt like we could get through anything, so then the world just came kind of tumbling down."
Sam Dixon died before his mission group could be rescued.
"The concrete, or the rubble as they called it, had fallen across their legs, and they were unable to move," Cindy Dixon said. "So, the French rescue team worked on them, trying to free them, and as the French doctor told me later, at one point the pain was so incredible that he anesthetized Sam, and he felt like Sam died of a heart attack."
Now, Cindy Dixon is the one at the Montana Hotel in Haiti, attending a memorial service for her husband as part of a mission trip with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
"I wanted to go to the Montana to see where it happened," she said, adding that she has a lot of questions about what happened in her husband's final hours.
"One time Sam said to me, 'You know, we all have questions and we think, well, when we get to heaven, we're going to ask (God) this list of things,'" Cindy Dixon said. "He said, 'Cindy, when we get there, it just won't matter. It will be so beautiful, it will not matter.'"
In Haiti, Cindy Dixon is remembering the many lessons her husband taught her, as she honors his legacy by doing the work he loved the most.
"Sam helped me to see that, no matter the color of your skin, we are all so much more alike than not," she said. "A smile translates anywhere in the world. We all hurt the same way. I think that pretty much says it all."