Dying to Get Here

“They come for the freedoms most Americans take for granted.” -Matt Lawrence

Set in 1994, “Dying to Get Here” chronicles the Robaina family’s effort for a meager existence in their small Havana barrio before deciding to make an attempt for freedom upon a small homemade raft.  The family works in secrecy for weeks, trash picking the pieces needed to assemble their “freedom float”, and on what is supposed to be a moonlit farewell night, they are forced to suffer at the hands of Castro’s ruthless Frontier Guards.

Fleeing the island in a hail of gunfire, their struggle for salvation on the sea is almost cut short in a squall, before sunrise brings Trig Combs and his Wings of Freedom air crew to discover the disheveled family adrift in the Florida Straits on what’s left of their broken dream; and in what countless readers are calling a family’s fearless fight for freedom, Lawrence skillfully tells the truths of what many balseros have lived, in crossing the shark-infested waters known as the Great Cemetery of Castro’s Revolution!

Lieutenant Jorge Martinez
Commanding Officer, USCGC Sitkinak (WPB1329).
“Matt recounts the horrors of the Florida Straits with exacting accuracy. It is as if he’s had to undertake the unfortunate task of taking to the seas for the sake of freedom himself.”

N13BR- “Los Gringos.” (Left)Thomas Van Hare (Right) Matt Lawrence

A group of Cuban balseros waves to a rescue aircraft.

An empty raft in the Straits of Florida- one of the many tombstones at sea.

A motorized boat spotted by Ken Touchton, a photographer covering the mission.

Photo: Ken Touchton.

A group of rafters on Elbow Cay, Cay Sal Banks, Bahamas.

Cutter Point Countess makes a rescue.

A Cuban gunboat in international waters hunting rafters.

N13BR at work

A single rafter afloat on two inner tubes.

A typical raft.

Photographer Ken Touchton with the balsero he spotted standing on the sea.

Photo 2: rafters, Elbow Cay.

U.S. Navy Helicopter makes a pickup.

“Yes! I really made it!"

Photo: Ken Touchton

Pilot Thomas “Seagull Tango" Van Hare piloting “El Coqui”

A Cuban raft made of oil drums.

A homemade sailboat.

The first hug is the most memorable hug, especially when its been years.

Dog Rocks, Cay Sal Banks, Bahamas.

The USCG Cutter Sitkinak.

Excerpts from Dying to Get Here

Contact Matt Lawrence