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Mitch Albom Is Among Group of American Volunteers Rescued From Haiti

A mission led by a United States congressman rescued the author Mitch Albom and several other Americans from Haiti early Tuesday as the Caribbean nation faces violent upheaval.

Mr. Albom, the Detroit Free Press columnist who wrote “Tuesdays With Morrie” and “The Five People You Meet in Heaven,” said in a statement that he and a group from Have Faith Haiti, an orphanage he runs in Port-au-Prince, were evacuated after sheltering in place since a state of emergency was declared in the country this month.

Representative Cory Mills, a Florida Republican and a U.S. Army veteran, led the mission in coordination with Representative Lisa McClain, a Michigan Republican. Mr. Albom lives in the Detroit area.

The rescue came as a humanitarian crisis rapidly unfolds in Haiti amid the country’s worst political upheavals in years.

Mr. Albom has been involved with the Haitian orphanage for more than a decade, and visits for a week once a month, Ms. McClain said in an interview. In his statement, Mr. Albom said saying goodbye to the children “was horribly difficult.”

“I had a responsibility to bring home 8 wonderful volunteers who were working with us,” he wrote. “But my wife’s and my hearts ache for our kids still there.”

The U.S. State Department has had a do-not-travel advisory since March 2020, but violence has escalated in recent weeks as gangs have banded together and terrorized the country, kidnapping and killing civilians and shutting down the airport. Neighboring countries are now rushing to create a transitional government and replace Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, who has agreed to step down.

On March 3, the U.S. Embassy in Haiti issued a security alert warning American citizens to leave the country as soon as possible. The U.S. military also bolstered security at the American Embassy and airlifted nonessential personnel out of the country.

Ms. McClain said she was first notified of Mr. Albom’s situation on Saturday, when one of her constituents reached out. Ms. McClain, who, like Mr. Mills, has accused the Biden administration of abandoning Americans during the crisis, said that Mr. Albom had made repeated requests to the State Department and American Embassy in Haiti to help get them out of the country.

“It became very apparent to me that our government and our State Department didn’t have a plan and was not going to be helpful at all,” she said after making her own attempt to contact the American Embassy in Haiti.

She turned to Mr. Mills for help. According to his congressional website, Mr. Mills helped rescue Americans from Afghanistan in 2021 and from Israel after the Oct. 7 attacks.

While Mr. Mills secured a helicopter, Ms. McClain “started working the back end,” she said, and received clearance from the Dominican Republic government for the helicopter to fly in and out of the Dominican Republic. Mr. Mills and a pilot were initially going to arrive in the early hours of Monday, but the helicopter’s generator did not work, Ms. McClain said. They found a second helicopter and arrived in Haiti in the dark, early hours on Tuesday.

Ms. McClain did not say how Mr. Mills was able to secure the helicopter, or offer details about the helicopter’s location. Mr. Mills did not immediately return a request for comment.

“He runs in a little bit of different circles than we do,” Ms. McClain said, alluding to his military service, which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, “because I don’t know how to get my hands on one helicopter, let alone two.”

Mr. Albom insisted on a rescue in the dark, she said, because he did not want to draw attention to the orphanage. Ms. McClain said the helicopter was on the ground for about a minute and a half and loaded eight Americans, one Canadian and one French volunteer. They landed safely in the Dominican Republic before being flown back to the United States.

“We are always relieved to learn that U.S. citizens are safe,” the State Department said in a statement on Thursday. “That said, the security situation in Haiti is very uncertain and initiatives like this are risky and can put people in harm’s way.”

Ms. McClain said she was now concerned about the “many other Americans left over there with no plan to get them out.” She said she did not know how many Americans were still in the country but noted that her office had been receiving calls, including from a couple from her district who are in Haiti waiting to adopt a child.

“It’s leaderless, it’s lawless over there,” she said. “They don’t want to come back until they can bring the child.”

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Nathan
Nathan

Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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