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Haitian orphan makes it to new parents in Riverview

Rebecca Williams consoles her newly adopted daughter Darline Blanchard Williams, 15, while she talks by phone with her cousin in the United States on Tuesday about two older sisters still in Haiti.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Rebecca Williams consoles her newly adopted daughter Darline Blanchard Williams, 15, while she talks by phone with her cousin in the United States on Tuesday about two older sisters still in Haiti.

RIVERVIEW — She lay on the couch wrapped in a quilt, clutching her cell phone.

Here, inside a pink stucco home, on a brown leather couch, the world was still.

The day before, Darline Williams walked past flattened buildings with body parts sticking out of the rubble. She watched others dig out family and friends with their bare hands, only to be swallowed themselves by shifting debris.

She tried to get a mask to block the scent of death. But the man from the U.N. told her they ran out.

"Dead, dead, dead," she said. "Many, many people dead."

The 15-year-old was one of about 4,500 Haitians to arrive Tuesday in Florida, an orphan with parents who have been waiting two years for her arrival.

Last week, she watched the land roll and crash like ocean waves, making the earth open and close, trapping underground anything in the way.

The earthquake rocked Haiti the day she was supposed to get her U.S. passport and eventually head home to her new adoptive family.

For 27 hours, Jerry and Rebecca Williams thought she was dead. The school where she should have been had been razed.

But then they got a call. A field missionary who worked with their Haitian nonprofit, Promised Provision Ministries, said the child was safe and unhurt.

"She had gone for a friend's funeral in Leogane," Rebecca Williams said. "The funny thing is, she said, 'Don't tell Mommy I wasn't in school.' "

The new parents couldn't have been more thankful she skipped class.

Like thousands of other parents-to-be, the Williams wondered what the disaster meant for their adoption. It already had taken two years of bureaucratic paper-pushing to almost get Darline a passport, and they worried she would turn 16 — the cutoff for international adoptees — before they could get her to the states.

Rebecca fired off e-mails and made phone calls to anyone at any agency she knew of. The State Department. The Joint Council on International Children's Services. The media. Gov. Charlie Crist.

She explained that her daughter was in "clear and present danger" and used other military terms the retired Air Force master sergeant knew would get the attention of government agencies. Gang members roaming the streets with machetes already had threatened the girl.

Disguised as a boy, Darline walked 20 miles to the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince with the missionary who had been caring for her. There, she was given humanitarian parole, a status that would allow her into the states.

"I don't know exactly what it was that got her here," Rebecca Williams said. "I just knew that I knew she was in God's hands. You can't worry or be scared enough."

She flew to Fort Pierce with other children, where her parents met her at midnight. Back at her new home, they showed Darline her bedroom and closet full of clothes.

She put her hand over her mouth and smiled.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com, or 661-2454.

Haitian orphan makes it to new parents in Riverview 01/19/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 19, 2010 11:06pm]
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