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My parents attend the First Baptist Church in Winter Park, Florida. They've been members there for many, many years and my mother used to work at The Learning Tree, the daycare center inside the church. She watched over the toddlers. One of them was Gretchen Storms. She and her sister Kirsten Storms are actresses. Kirsten used to love to visit her sister and talk to my mother, who is fondly remembered as Miss Dottie. She is an actress on General Hospital. Their father, Mike, was the resident (and most popular) sports guy on TV for many years. When I did food demos at Petty's Meat Market in Longwood for the marinade I used to make, he and his wife shopped there. They never brought their daughters, but Mike and I carried on some memorable conversations. He was, and remains, a class act through and through. Heck, he loved my marinade! He had to be a good guy.
This isn't about any of them or who I know, though. This is about someone I never met and he is missing. The only connection to any of these people, including my parents, is that they all attend or attended the First Baptist Church and one of their members hasn't been heard from since the earthquake in Haiti on January 13.
46-year-old Lee Strickland, Jr, is Sunday School teacher, a husband and a father. The last time he was heard from was 7 minutes before it hit, when he was on the phone with his wife. He told her he was about to go to dinner with colleagues. That was around 4:45 PM. Strickland is a longtime employee of PBS&J engineering firm in Orlando. PBS&J has hired an independent contractor to search for him and remains in communication with the hospitals in Dominican Republic, where victims pulled from the Hotel Montana are being treated. So far, no good news.
Hotel Montana was a 4-star tourist hotel that was completely destroyed. Alain Joyandet, an official with France's State Department, toldAgence France-Presse that 300 people were believed to be inside the 145-key Montana when it collapsed, while only about 100 have been accounted for. Approximately 200 other guests of the hotel, where he had just checked in, are missing and feared dead.
Lee is a civil engineer and he was attending a conference in Port-Au-Prince with four others from another firm. Those four employees are accounted for. The decision for him to go to the conference was a last minute thing.
Lee Strickland, Jr.
Please pray for Lee, his family and the thousands upon thousands of victims, alive and dead.
Statement by President Bill Clinton and President George W. BushWe are deeply saddened by the devastation and suffering caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti. The people of Haiti are in our thoughts and prayers.
We are pleased to accept President Obama’s request to lead private sector fundraising efforts. In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people.
Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy. We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering – and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation.
For information on how you can contribute, please visit