``You don't have to explain
a hurricane to people in Miami,'' Weininger said. ``We know
all about them. We remember Andrew. We remember what it's
like to hurt.''
Weininger collected the aid
with help from the Cuban American National Foundation and
the Coral Gables-based Central American Medical Society, and
then talked Delta into flying it to Managua. The effort
produced results before those of Nicaraguan celebrities
including major league pitcher Dennis Martinez and Bianca
Jagger, the fashion model turned U.N. spokeswoman.
Martinez will visit
Nicaragua this morning with Tipper Gore, wife of Vice
President Al Gore. A load of supplies collected by Jagger is
scheduled to arrive later in the day.
Help slow in coming
Aid from foreign
governments, slow to arrive at first because so much
attention was fixed on hurricane damage in neighboring
Honduras, is now streaming in so quickly that the runways at
Managua International Airport sometimes resemble a rush-hour
But comparatively small
amounts of the thousands of tons of food and medicine
collected from private sources in the United States and
elsewhere have reached Nicaragua because of the difficulty
in arranging transportation.
``People are trying to get
it here any way they can, but it's just not easy,'' said
Marilyn Zak, head of the Managua office of the U.S. Agency
for International Development. ``I was on an American
Airlines flight from Miami Saturday that was accepting
hurricane supplies. It was so far overweight that they had
to offer tickets to 10 people to get off. It started at $40
tickets and went up to $1,000 before they got the last two
Husband is a pilot
Weininger, whose husband
Mike is a Delta Air Lines pilot, called the company for help
last week. She got two lucky breaks: Delta was planning a
training flight to acquaint its pilots with Central American
airports. And Delta's manager of Latin American operations,
Henry Quant, was born in Nicaragua.
``The flight wasn't
originally scheduled to come to Managua, because we don't
have service here,'' Quant said. ``But to me, you better
believe this was a big deal. I called my boss, and he said:
Weininger, well known to
Miami's Cuban-American community for her long campaign to
retrieve the body of her father from Cuba - where he was
shot down while piloting a CIA warplane at the Bay of Pigs -
is becoming something of a celebrity in Nicaragua as well.
Recovering pilots' bodies
Earlier this year, she
persuaded the CIA to fund an expedition to recover the
bodies of two other CIA pilots who crashed in Nicaragua
during the Bay of Pigs invasion. Weininger, who accompanied
the body-recovery team to the remote mountain country near
San Jose de Bocay, was so touched by the local reception
that she has been returning every month or two with a few
hundred pounds of donated supplies.
``I've seen the people on
that mountain, torn apart by war and poverty, with no one to
help,'' Weininger said. ``And that was before the hurricane.
Now they need it more than ever.''
Weininger's planeload of
aid attracted a curious horde of Nicaraguan reporters
Tuesday. She struggled to answer their questions in her
rudimentary Spanish, but for one question - why did you do
it? - the words rolled easily off her tongue. ``Porque
Nicaragua esta en mi corazon,'' she said. ``Because
Nicaragua is in my heart.''