Bringing the kids home by air

I have to capture a recent, powerful experience I had at work.

The past few weeks have been heavy and frantic, but they have given me glimpses into the desperate worlds that adoption pulls children from. And I’ve been able to vicariously experience the emotions of adoptive parents bringing their children home.

Part of my job is to coordinate an appropriate response from my company after a major disaster. We have a plan for providing donations, products and services, which was developed after the tsunami, then used several times, including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ike, recent fires in Australia, and earthquakes in Indonesia and China.

So after the earthquake in Haiti, we mobilized a quick response, and focused much of our efforts on lending resources to get doctors, aid workers and supplies flown into the Port-Au-Prince airport with our corporate planes.

A few days after the quake, we received a request from a local adoption agency that startled me, because it was different than most of the requests we were fielding, and immediately put myself into the frame of mind of an adoptive parent.

I had been watching news reports and groaning to think of the orphaned children, many who were in the process of being adopted. The process is so long and complicated, and dependent on the legal systems of foreign countries. I understood, and had already heard stories about, children whose records were lost, a government that was decimated, and orphan homes that were destroyed, with children on the street.

I kept thinking what it would be like if a similar situation occurred in Ethiopia. We would be beside ourselves.

The adoption agency request was to fly groups of adoptive parents down to Miami. The US and Haitian governments had worked together to expedite the paperwork to get these kids freed up so they could leave the country and be with their adoptive parents.

These were not families that just signed up for adoption. They were in the last stages and were at risk of losing all they had worked for because of the earthquake. Yet, by many small miracles, they were able to get their little ones to Miami, and needed to meet them at the airport to go through immigration and bring their children home.

Thankfully, we got a quick approval that same morning, and by 2:00 pm the plane was leaving for Florida. The families met up with their kids that evening, spent all night and the next morning working through immigration, and flew home that afternoon.

I had already helped to coordinate several flights with a few different relief agencies, and had not been at our hangar to see them off, or to welcome them home. But this I had to see.

The waiting room was packed with families ready to welcome their new brothers and sisters, grandchildren, cousins or friends home. It was like the old days of families in a hospital waiting room, waiting to break out the cigars and confetti.

When the planes came in, there were cheers from the crowd, local television crews on hand, and smiling aviation staff glad to be a part of this exalted mission.

The families that emerged were tired and had the dazed look of new parents that are adjusting to a massive life change in a short time. It was a beautiful, natural thing and I had to keep looking away and breathing deep to calm my emotions.

Driving away that night, I was so excited for our time, and our daughter. It is easy for me to carve out the adoption part of my life and set it aside during the waiting period. It helps me to be patient and to avoid feeling low when another day passes without a phone call. But this experience brought me back to the magnitude of what we are undertaking and the power of adoption in building families from broken pieces.

Here are a couple links to the press stories, and some pictures taken by my colleague, Joel Van Kuiken:

http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/local/kent_county/W-Mich-parents-unite-with-Haitian-kids

http://www.wzzm13.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=117745

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