SALT LAKE CITY — Family members with balloons and "Welcome Home" signs strained their eyes for a glimpse Wednesday night.
Then, in a green baseball cap and white T-shirt, one little 8-year-old boy, Fabrice, sprinted — a huge grin on his face — into the arms of 12-year-old Kaleb Aitkin, his brother.
Following Fabrice, his weary and overjoyed family members — 5-year-old Nelande and their youngest brother, 4-year-old Yonelson, walked amid parents David and Candice Aitken — who were finally home.
The Aitkens hadn't slept much since 1 a.m. on Wednesday, the time when their eldest boy to have been adopted and brought home from Haiti was returned to them. The family had spent many fearful, grueling hours since the 8-year-old was forced to stay behind in Haiti because of misplaced paperwork while his siblings flew to Florida to meet up with their parents.
"There are no words," said Chareyl Moyes, Haiti program manager for Ogden-based Wasatch International Adoptions. She had been heartbroken when she was forced to leave the child behind as she boarded the plane with his siblings last week.
But now, with Nelande's hand securely holding fast onto hers, only letting go to be given a Red Fish candy or a piece of gum from her new siblings, Moyes said the extensive paperwork and time it took to bring 68 children over to the U.S. was "definitely worth it."
"We just cried when we saw Fabrice," said his father, David Aitken, an Eagle Mountain businessman.
The boy raced to unbuckle his seat belt and nearly tripped out of the car when his foot caught on the troublesome seat belt to get to his family even faster when they were reunited in Florida.
The children were so excited they began singing, "When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands," grandmother Ann Aitken said of the moment when the children were finally together again early Wednesday.
The trip to be together has been an arduous one.
First, when the earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, the 68 orphans were in the process of moving from Carrefour to Port-au-Prince and were split into two groups. Half, including Nelande and Yonelson, were taken to an LDS meetinghouse in Petionville, but the remainder, including Fabrice, were still in Carrefour.
The three Aitken children, along with seven other children adopted by Utah residents, were supposed to fly to Florida later this week to be brought home. On Monday, the Haitian government decided to halt the flow of children leaving the country for adoption.
But Moyes, who is working on behalf of 15 more children in the Foyer de Sion orphanage who are still in Haiti, said she won't give up.
For Fabrice and his brother and sister on Wednesday, after another hour-long car ride, they would arrive in their new home to find monster toy trucks on their beds and sunglasses and deodorant on Fabrice's bed — "cool things" his 14-year-old brother Kolby said he adores.
The Aitken parents, who expanded their family from six to nine children, couldn't be happier. They say they'll start home schooling the children and just "let them enjoy being kids."
"They haven't had that chance until now," David Aitken said.
Aitken's business partner of the Provo-based company HIT Web Design, which supports the Hope for Little Angels of Haiti orphanage, said within the next 30 days, the company plans to start raising money to help rebuild the orphanage there.
Until then, the kids, who played on escalators with their siblings and marveled over candy machines and the treats coming out of them, are just happy to be home.
"We're just overjoyed,"Candace Aitken said.
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