Six months after his twin brother was killed during Haiti's earthquake while working inside the UN headquarters, Gregory Grene leaves this morning on an emotional trip to the Caribbean nation to begin the work of a foundation established in Andrew Grene's memory.
It will be Gregory's first trip to Haiti since Andrew, who had a house in Hicksville but spent most of the last few years in Haiti, was buried in the rubble. He was found six days after the Jan. 12 earthquake, which left an estimated 300,000 people dead and 1.5 million homeless.
"It's a big thing, to walk on those grounds, to be in that place. It's going to be very, very hard," Gregory said Tuesday. But, as he noted, not taking action "is putting oneself in a position to be overwhelmed by the tragedy."
Andrew Grene, 44, was a UN senior civilian peacekeeping officer in Haiti.
He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, an English teacher at Long Island Lutheran High School in Brookville, and three children, including two in college, Patrick and Alex. Jennifer still lives in Hicksville with the couple's teenage daughter, Rosamund.
Shortly after Andrew's death, Gregory and a longtime friend of the brothers, Tim Perutz, decided to start a foundation that would honor Andrew Grene's memory and seek to carry on his work in Haiti. They plan to use funds raised by the Andrew Grene Foundation (www.andrewgrene.org) to provide educational assistance to Haitian youths who otherwise would not be able to afford school, and to assist in microfinance credit for "the tiny businesses that can provide the difference between life and death for a family in a developing country," the group said in a statement.
Gregory Grene said the purpose of his and Perutz's weeklong trip will be to explore how the money can best help Haitians.
They have raised funds in the U.S. as well as in Ireland and England.
The twin brothers were born in Chicago but split their childhood between the United States and Ireland, their father's homeland. David Grene was a professor at the University of Chicago; their mother, Ethel May Weiss, is an emergency room doctor in Chicago. Gregory Grene, who lives in Manhattan, is a founding member of the U.S.-based Celtic rock band The Prodigals.
After his death, his wife returned to teaching at Long Island Lutheran, and delivered this year's commencement address, Gregory Grene said. "She's been amazing and brave and dealt with something that's just huge," he said. "It's been the hardest thing in the world for her."