Wednesday Jan 20 2010
From earthquake to Auburn: Rescued 7-year-old Haitian orphan coming home
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Claire, a 7-year-old orphan rescued from the devastation of Haiti with the help of billionaire Ted Turner, is on her way to a new home in Auburn. The girl flew out of the Port-au-Prince airport with adoptive parents Debbie and Scott Bryditzki overnight Wednesday in Turner’s personal jet. After a stop in Fort Lauderdale, the three flew to Atlanta, where they were staying until a flight to Sacramento International Airport late this morning. Claire had already been adopted by the Lake of the Pines couple when the Jan. 12 earthquake struck Haiti. The Bryditzkis were near to securing a visa and passport for Marie Guerline Clerge, a girl they know as Claire. Tired but elated Wednesday, Claire and her new parents had been part of a minor miracle, with Turner – a pioneer in the cable industry now known for his philanthropic efforts – providing his private jet and personal pilot for the flight. The jet ferried supplies for the relief effort in to Port-au-Prince but the six-passenger plane left the island with only a pilot, co-pilot, the Bryditzkis – and Claire. A UN truck met the plane at the airport. Claire was there to meet them. Less than a day earlier, the Bryditzkis were at their Lake of the Pines home desperately seeking a way to get Claire out of Haiti and to safety. Their story is already receiving national media attention, with “Larry King Live” expressing interest in an interview and a Time magazine reporter and photographer covering Claire’s passport and visa approvals in Port-au-Prince. “I was in almost disbelief when I turned around and saw Claire,” Debbie Bryditzki said today. “I felt utter relief. It was almost surreal. There was so much emotion that had driven us to that moment.” The Haitian Department of Immigration building had been reduced to rubble in the earthquake, leaving the Bryditzkis to do plenty of praying while getting the word out to Haitian and U.S. authorities that they needed help in extraordinary times. “It was a sense of unbelievable relief that I knew she was going to be safe,” Debbie said. “And not too long after we got off the tarmac, another big quake hit.” Delta airlines took good care of the Bryditzkis to ensure they got to Atlanta and then connected to a Sacramento flight, Debbie said. Just after 11 a.m., the plane should touch down in Sacramento, with an expected small group of well-wishers assembled at the airport – including Claire’s new siblings, Danielle, 25, Ashley, 22, and Brandon, 15 – to welcome the three home.