Eight Richmond women share experience of Haiti disaster

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As recovery efforts continue in Haiti, eight Richmond women who survived the earthquake finally made it home to central Virginia.

The group had been in downtown Port-au-Prince on a mission trip when the 7.0 quake hit.

The group of four women and their four daughters had been in Haiti for less than 48 hours before the earthquake rocked the nation.

The group was running late and hit rush hour traffic in downtown Port-au-Prince, so their driver decided to try a short-cut on a secondary road.

Alison Halsey says their van was stopped in the middle of an intersection at 5:15 on Tuesday evening.

"I've never been so scared in my entire life," she said."The car started shaking a little bit then all of the sudden it felt like the road was going to split open. I mean the car was going crazy, the buildings around us were collapsing."

Panic set in -- danger was all around them.

"So you just sit there and look at what's ahead and you're just cringing that you could be next to a building when then next thing came and it would crash down on you," said Alison's mother Corell Halsey.

"There are hundreds of people screaming and running and bloody and it was so, so sad," said Kim Gottwald.

The orphanage where they were staying had crumbled.

But the group was able to make it to the U.S. embassy.

They had no food and no water, only the clothes on their backs.

A Coast Guard plane evacuated them to the Dominican Republic.

Most of them returned home to Richmond Friday night.

"You're asking yourself why are we the lucky ones," said Kim Gottwald's daughter Caroline. "Not just the Haitians, but the other Americans who weren't lucky enough to get out. Our whole group was lucky. There's a reason that we're here."

For this group, that reason is telling their stories, hoping it will make people open their eyes and their hearts to the unimaginable suffering of the Caribbean nation.

The group Volun-Tour Haiti was started by one of the Richmond women who survived the earthquake.

She tells us they will take more mission trips to Haiti.

The four daughters say they're going to try to raise money for the recovery when they return to UVA for classes.

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