Raleigh, N.C. — Triangle residents began safely making their way home Friday from Haiti, three days after a 7.0-magnitude rocked that nation’s capital.
A mission team of 13 people representing churches in Durham, Clayton and Smithfield, residents arrived in New Jersey Friday morning aboard military transports and were arriving back in North Carolina late Friday.
The group had arrived in Haiti shortly before the earthquake hit.
"We left a lot of friends down there. A lot of dead people. A lot of hurting, people wounded. There are no medical supplies. There's nothing," said 79-year-old Helen Little, who returned after her 47th mission trip to Haiti.
"The first night it happened, they had to sleep outside. They were just out there with the Haitians themselves and looking after them the best they could," said Little's daughter, Michael Little.
Helen Little said experiencing the devastation was much worse than any picture or piece of video could illustrate.
"Houses went down and two little girls were dead, just like that," she said. "There were five children dead right where we were and nobody can bury them. There's no money to bury with."
Helen Little said she is already looking forward to going back to Haiti for a 48th mission trip.
"They're good people. They just don't have a chance and we can help," she said. "Two generations from now it's gonna be better, but right now it's really bad."
Relatives said the group spent 12 hours at the Port-au-Prince airport Thursday but couldn't get out because civilian flights were shut down to allow military aid flights to land. The group went back to their base camp for the night.
At 3 a.m., they were surprised by a group of U.S. military. The soldiers escorted them to the airport and flew them home in the holds of two C-130 cargo planes.
Michael Little said that he was relieved to hear his mother was safely back in the U.S.
"It's nerve-wracking but I don't know a lot of times when Mama's coming in or not," he said.
"The last e-mail I got said that it was getting dangerous to stay down there, that the gangs were piling up rocks and bodies in the road, stopping traffic, demanding money and food to pass through," he said. "I think it's time to leave whenever it gets like that."
Relatives said the mission group went through customs at Fort Dix, N.J., and were arriving on various flights to Raleigh-Durham International Airport Friday night.
Helen Little, Joan Gregg and Linda Mitchell, both of Durham, Carol West, of Greenville and Karen Thorenstein, arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport just before 9 p.m. Members of the group were arriving on various flights late Friday.
In Roanoke Rapids, family and friends of three men working on behalf of the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church got good news as well.
The Rev. Sam Dixon and two other missionaries were found alive in the rubble of their collapsed hotel in Port-au-Prince.
Dixon and James Gulley were freed from what remains of the Montana Hotel. Gulley was freed Thursday, while Dixon was rescued Friday morning.
A colleague, Clint Rabb, remained trapped in the rubble Friday but was talking to rescuers and had gotten fluids from a French medical team.
"Frankly, we are so delighted to have a word of hope, to know that he's alive," NCCUMC staffer Carol Goehring said.
Dixon's family and friends spent two tense days, not knowing if the men had survived the quake.
"They've been nerve-wracking at times. Everything we've heard has been in flux," his colleague Bill Norton said.
Gulley's son, Aaron, said that his father told him that Dixon and Rabb had been pinned by a concrete beam.
"They had to get Sam out in order to get to Clint," said Tom Hazlewood, an executive with the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Church staffers said Dixon had an ankle or leg injury, although the extent of his injuries wasn't known. Gulley, who had cuts and bruises, was at the U.S. Embassy, waiting to be airlifted out of Haiti.
"My dad is the type of man that, with a crooked ankle and broken leg, would want to stay in Haiti and help others," said Dixon's daughter, Christy Dixon. "My dad's a fighter. He's a stubborn man, and we all love him for it. He's going to do whatever it takes."
Sam Dixon, UMCOR's top executive, was in Haiti to check on the church's missions, and his team was also working on expanding health ministries.
"He's motivated by compassion. He has a call on his life that is relentless," Goehring said.
"I wouldn't be surprised that just as soon as he gets out ... that he'd be out helping people," Norton said.
Michael Little said he knows his mother also will head back to Haiti once the situation there stabilizes.
"No question in my mind, I'm sure she'll be back," he said.
Her church, Horne Memorial United Methodist in Clayton, is planning for a quick return trip and gathering supplies to aid relief in Haiti.
The church has helped the United Methodist Church collect 10 tons of medical supplies. They formed an assembly line at a warehouse, off Atkinson Road for a second day Friday, packing boxes with everything from food to hygiene products.
A church representative said they hope to be able to send the supplies this weekend.
The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. Also, the International Red Cross has created a database for people to locate friends and relatives in Haiti.