More Haitian refugees arrive in Chicago

January 21, 2010 8:41:50 PM PST
A United Airlines jet carrying 165 Haitian evacuees, including 42 children, arrived at O'Hare Thursday night.It was United's second round-trip flight to Port-Au-Prince to deliver supplies and volunteers.

Evacuees are transported on the flights back to Chicago. As many as 30 similar trips are planned.

Patience prevailed at the Port-au-Prince Airport Thursday despite the heat and the horrors Haitians have seen.

"The situation is bad. I don't know exactly, me, maybe I can die here," said Michael Jonlamo, waiting to leave Haiti.

Just a handful of US State Department workers were at the front of line to grant those with passports and visas permission to leave. It is a choke-point that caused humanitarian flights-- like another United flight traveling to Haiti from Chicago Wednesday-- to return to the United States with empty seats.

The wait to get out of Haiti country is horrendous, sometimes stretching more than 24 hours. People have to wait in endless lines before they can even be considered for a flight out.

Winnetka native and former Marine William McNulty is part of a team that's been on the ground for more than a week.

"Right now at the general hospital, the largest hospital in Haiti all the patients are in the streets. Women are giving birth to babies, there are broken limbs and amputations being done in the streets right now," said McNulty.

"I'm hoping to return home the same person but more and more I'm starting to doubt that's going to happen," said Karem Korkmaz, medical volunteer from Chicago.

Another group of evacuees were airlifted out of Haiti on a United Airlines plane which arrived in Chicago Wednesday night.

Many of those evacuees are already on their way to re-connecting with relatives and friends around the country. About 25 of them got on buses headed for the airport Thursday morning for flights to New York City and several different U.S. cities. In the meantime, those left are just happy to be out of Haiti.

"I'm glad to be here. Even though I can't go today, still, it's not a problem. I'm still alive," said Kesler Joley, Haitian evacuee.

Providing for the dozens of evacuees, however, is a herculean task.

"Whatever the need, we're trying to get them met at this point," said Nerressa Billingsley, relief worker.

The men, women, and children make up the splintered families who survived the disaster in Haiti and recently escaped the earthquake's horrible aftermath to temporarily reside at the Chicago Christian Industrial League's West Side center.

"I thank God we are way, but I pray for my all my brothers and sisters in Haiti," said Nordine Mondesir, Haitian evacuee.

The group -- comprised of those with U.S. citizenship, visas or relatives in the United States -- was transported Wednesday by a United Airlines flight originally sent to Haiti to deliver supplies and drop off volunteers. That flight - the first United Airlines humanitarian flight to go to Haiti - returned to Chicago with 68 adults and 13 kids aboard. Half were U.S. citizens returning home. The other half were Haitians who were fortunate enough to get visas.

ABC7's Ben Bradley was on the Boeing 757, which departed Chicago early Wednesday morning for the round-trip to Haiti.

Once in Chicago, understandably exhausted and traumatized, the rescued received warm clothes, a cooked meal, and some comfort.

For 13-year-old Haitian-American Vanessa Louis the help comes right on time. Separated from her other older siblings, Louis and her mother plan to head to Miami Friday to stay with relatives and eventually hope to reunite their family.

"Life is not that easy. One day you say life is good, another day everything is gone. It's really hard," said Louis.

Louis was in Port-Au-Prince visiting with family when the earthquake hit and several aftershocks followed.

"It had another earthquake while I was in the embassy. I was praying God, when can I get out," said Louis.

Louis did get out along with her mother who has legal residency in the U.S., but not with her other older siblings who are all Haitian citizens.

"She just feels sad. It's really hard for her. They don't have no food to eat, no place to go, nothing to do," said Louis.

Like Louis, Mondesir is temporarily calling the Chicago Christian Industrial League home.

"God saved my daughter. The school fell on her. Some one broke a wall and pulled her out," said Mondesir.

While Mondesir's niece died in the earthquake, Joly is just glad to be alive.

"We felt desperate...when the Good Samaritan Americans came. We felt we survived and they help us any way they can," said Joly.