Haiti quake sends father on blessing-filled odyssey for daughter

By Sammy Linebaugh

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 24 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Jeremy rode with several of the rescue workers over to Jimini's local hospital.

"That's when I saw it for the first time," he said. "There were 1,200 to 1,500 people laying on the ground, tons of amputees. It was just massive suffering. There were only four doctors and there was moaning everywhere. Mothers holding babies, little kids … there was an old man with no family. His whole family died. He was crying and shaking … he had come out of surgery hours earlier and was just there on the ground with no blanket."

Back at the staging area, under the Jimini stars, he lay down by the helicopter.

He didn't sleep.

Seeing Gabrielle

With sunrise, the Utah Haiti Relief helicopter was loaded up with food, water and baby formula and set off for Lamardelle. Duane Fielding piloted the R-44, while Lifeflight nurse Jan Call, aid volunteer CJ Wade and Jeremy all scouted for the orphanage using the Google Earth coordinates.

"It was Jan who spotted it," Jeremy said. "The aunties all started waving, clapping, jumping in the air … We got out of the chopper and they were like, 'You came!'"

Inside the orphanage, the crew learned the premature baby they were rushing to save had died. Still, there were many others who would be saved.

And then, for a dad in search of his daughter, the moment came.

"Gabby, as soon as she saw me, she said, 'Poppy Jeremy!' and she just ran to me," he said. "She's just so beautiful and sweet. She asked, 'Are we going on an avion?' I said I'm never going to leave you again. I'm not leaving here without you."

Duane Fielding pulled out the video camera and captured the reunion.

"Duane put his hand on his head," Jeremy said, "then put his hands on his knees and bawled. He said, 'I don't think I've ever cried'… Believe me, we've all bawled like babies a million times this week."

And the story, really, is just beginning.

A greater rescue

Jeremy stayed at the orphanage the next couple of days while Utah Haiti Relief ran daily flights back and forth bringing supplies to Crèche Enfant Jesus.

Duncan, meanwhile, worked round the clock in Port-au-Prince to fast-track visas for the children and babies in her care who had adoptive parents waiting.

Wednesday morning, Wardle got the good news that Duncan had Gabrielle's visa in hand.

"Then she said, 'I have to ask something of you, something greater.'

Duncan had visas for 21 children and babies who all needed to be airlifted out of the country.

"Jeremy Johnson made this all happen," Jeremy Wardle said. "There is no way any of this would have happened without him."

A southern Utah pilot and businessman, Johnson arranged for the helicopters and clearances to transport the 21 children — most of them 2 years and younger — from Lamardelle to the Port-au-Prince airport. Still, a jet would be needed to evacuate them to Florida.

Back home, Hollie made contact with Chances for Children, an Arizona-based nonprofit with connections to a private jet. The aircraft was scheduled to deliver aid workers and supplies the following day — and could bring the children to Ft. Lauderdale.

"Hollie said the jet would be only be on the ground a total of 40 minutes, so we had to have the babies there waiting and load them on as fast as we could," Jeremy said.

The following morning, Utah Haiti Relief landed three helicopters at once next to the orphanage.

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