Texans share survival stories from Haiti quake

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by JASON WHITELY / WFAA-TV

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

wfaa.com

Posted on January 16, 2010 at 3:48 AM

Updated Saturday, Jan 16 at 3:48 AM

DALLAS -- Coming home from Haiti wasn't supposed to have tears of sorrow.

 

"Unfortunately I still feel like this ground is moving," Lila Foree said.

She is among four of the 12 from Highland Park United Methodist Church to share survivor stories on Friday.

They recounted what it was like when their charity eye clinic collapsed during Tuesday's earthquake.

"Karen Gardner was compressed. She could hardly breathe," said Alex Paz, 36, colleague. "Jean [Arnwine] was under a table on her back with everything over her. She was unsure. She was afraid. She was like, 'If you keep working, this is going to fall on me more. If it falls on me more it's going to crush my stomach.'"

Five were trapped inside the destroyed one-story building including Foree's husband, Ken.

"So I looked around at the corner of the building where the room was located where he was. I didn't realize Dr. [Gary] Fish was with him, but there was nothing left of that corner of the building. It was a pile of concrete rubble."

What happened next, they believe, was a miracle.

"If this guy didn't show up," Paz added, "Maybe, Nancy, we could have gotten out, but we couldn't have saved Jean and Karen."

Miners freed the trapped members of the Dallas group in a little more than five hours.

"He and his team are mine evacuation specialists," Foree said. "Nobody knew why they were there."

But Jean Arnwine, pinned under concrete for several hours, suffered severe internal injuries during the ordeal Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, friends got her to a United Nations hospital in a neighboring town for treatment.

Hours later she was rushed to the Port-au-Prince airport for evacuation.

"From there we just waited," Paz said. "Dr. Fish told us 'They couldn't take her tonight because she couldn't sit up. If she could sit up, they would have taken her to Miami.'"

She was flown south instead.

A French surgical plane carried Arnwine and Fish, who suffered broken ribs, to the eastern Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

"She was unconscious but alive when they landed, and the surgeons and the doctors on the ground were unable to revive her," said Kim Gifford, church spokeswoman. "She passed away at 12:15 a.m. [Friday]. They said her internal injuries were just too severe."

Arnwine, 49, loved her experience in Haiti, friends remembered -- helping others even though she never received enough herself.

Her husband and two children are making arrangements to have her body returned to Dallas.

Fish is expected to return soon, as well.

E-mail: jwhitely@wfaa.com

 

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