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Haitian earthquake survivors land at Joint Base Andrews

by Chelsea Gitzen
Capital Flyer staff writer

1/17/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- An 89th Airlift Wing C-32 carrying 22 survivors of the Haitian earthquake landed at Joint Base Andrews just after midnight Jan. 17.

The repatriated U.S. citizens arrived at the passenger terminal with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who returned from Haiti after pledging U.S. support toward the relief effort to Haitian President Rene Preval.

After a Joint Team Andrews welcome from senior leaders, the victims received immediate medical attention for flu symptoms, fatigue and any other medical concerns. This care was given jointly by members of the 79th Medical Wing, Prince George's County Fire Department emergency medical technicians and Red Cross workers.

"I feel like Andrews is full of nice people," said Myrlene Desir, a returning survivor who was born in Haiti and came to the United States in 1984. "Everyone here is very helpful." Ms. Desir visits family in Haiti and now lives in Waterbridge, Conn.

For people like Ms. Desir, the trauma of the catastrophe that shook the Haiti region was eased when U.S. assistance took hold.

"The moment I stepped inside the embassy knew I was going to be ok," said Ms. Desir.

One of the three children Ms. Desir was traveling with, her 8-year-old niece, Isabel, received medical attention for flu-like symptoms.

"She had a cough, fever, chills and felt nauseous earlier today," said Lt. Col. Steve Irvin, 779th Aeromedical Staging Facility medical director. "I felt so sad for the survivors and really wanted to help them. "[Isabel] reminded me of my own kid. You just try to take care of everybody as if they're your own."

The survivors welcomed the assistance after their traumatic experience and were humbled by the generosity of the Joint Base Andrews hosts.

"I think the doctor did a good job when he was taking care of me," said Isabel. "I think that he was very helpful."

After all necessary medical examinations were completed, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents cleared the citizens and released them to a local hotel to rest for the night.

Air Mobility Command aircraft and Airmen continue to support the U.S. military's Haitian relief effort, Operation Unified Response, as senior leaders work to establish long-term sustainment and collaborate with international partners to help the country.

Throughout history, AMC has proven its unmatched capabilities of providing an outstretched hand of hope to those in need through humanitarian relief operations.

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