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Music Cues: Rosetta Pedro Was Born This Week, Out of a Biblical Swirl of Flood Waters
Scott Simon
March 4, 2000

Scott Simon commentary on Mozambique floods

Her mother, 26 year-old Sophia Pedro, her father, Benet Murdie, and the two children who are now her brother and sister had spent four days fighting birds and monkeys for perches in the limbs of a tree along the flooded Limpopo River in southern Mozambique. Mrs. Pedro's mother was among the hundreds of thousands who were killed and washed away in the floods let loose by Cyclone Eline.

Mozambique had been making great strides in trying to recover from a long and ruinous civil war. But relief officials say the floods have dislodged thousands of landmines that had been marked for removal, and sent them swirling into new and unknown places.

On Wednesday afternoon, a South African air force helicopter searching for survivors saw Sophia Pedro and her family waving wearily from their tree. Sgt. Stuart Buck had himself lowered down into the tree, just above the surging tidewaters, but saw at once that Sophia Pedro required special handling. She had begun to give birth.

Sgt. Buck gallantly brought up her young son and daughter in his arms, and then, as he dangled in the wind and rain at the end of long cable, tried to tell Sophia Pedro and her husband that his helicopter would fly off, but soon return with a doctor. According to South African news services, the sergeant smiled, churned his hands like helicopter blades, and kept pumping his thumbs-up, saying, "doctor, doctor, soon, soon." Sophia Pedro nodded. But Sgt. Buck wasn't certain if she believed that he would return, or was simply a wise woman who had grown reconciled to saving some lives, and letting go of others. He didn't know if thumbs-up meant anything good in the Pedro's tribal language.

There was a time, by the way, when South African army helicopters fired on Mozambiquans in the struggle over apartheid. Today, a South Africa freed from offical racism lends some of its wealth and talents to helping its neighbors.

Within half an hour, Sgt. Buck returned with a paramedic--but Rosetta Pedro had already arrived. The paramedic cut the cord between mother and daughter, and helped hoist them together into Sgt. Buck's helicopter. Sophia Pedro held her baby close in the back of the aircraft, but shot Sgt. Buck and smile; and pumped her thumbs up.

This weekend, Sophia Pedro and her family are reported to be tired, hungry, but happy to be alive. Sgt. Stuart Buck visited them in the Chibuto hospital, held Rosetta, and got a little teary.

"After all the misery and tragedy we've seen," he said, "what a blessing to be a part of this. It's as if, you know, at last, people are winning against the floods.