A planeload of Haitian orphans were evacuated from the quake shattered capital today, landing in chilly Pittsburgh today to a warm welcome.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell accompanied the plane to Port-au-Prince Monday and today he led 53 orphans off the military transport. Most of the children are under the age of 4 and many were carried in the arms of workers. Others walked off the plane and waved to onlookers.
The tykes were taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh where 53 beds were waiting for them, each with a teddy bear on it.
Rendell said that of the 53 children, 47 already have agreements for adoption and the other six children were in the process of adoption.
The orphans were allowed into the country under an emergency humanitarian program announced Monday. The Homeland Security ruling allows orphaned children from Haiti to enter the United States temporarily on a case-by-case basis.
The decision applies to children who have been legally confirmed as orphans eligible for intercountry adoption by the government of Haiti and are being adopted by U.S. citizens.
"While we remain focused on family reunification in Haiti, authorizing the use of humanitarian parole for orphans who are eligible for adoption in the United States will allow them to receive the care they need here," Napolitano said.
The orphan airlift was spurred by Jamie McMutrie, 30, and her sister Ali, 22, who moved to Haiti to care for children at a Port-au-Prince orphanage four years ago. After the quake, they began a Twitter and Facebook campaign to help the children.
"When the earthquake hit, my sister and I felt absolutely hopeless," Ali McMutrie told a news conference in Pittsburgh. She added, "We knew we had to take action."
She said the children are doing fine. "They know they are coming home and going to their adoptive parents," she said.
Other orphans arrived in the U.S. today. Matt and Mandy Poulters of Iowa rushed to Haiti to rescue 4-year-old Esther, the Haitian girl they had adopted but who was stranded in Port-au-Prince awaiting her visa. The Poulters arrived in Miami today with Esther and four other Haitian orphans.
Esther had been located by Robin Roberts of ABC's "Good Morning America." The reunion with her adoptive parents occurred Monday. The Poulters found Esther and another eight orphans living outside and running low on food and water.
Unwilling to leave the other girls behind, they took all nine to the U.S. Embassy. Four of the children were already in the process of being adopted by other families, and under the humanitarian emergency program were allowed to enter the United States.
The Poulters had wanted to bring all nine of the children back to the States with them, but they had to settle for bringing Esther and the four other girls to Florida today.
"None of them have ridden on an airplane before," Mandy Poulters told "Good Morning America" today. "They're troupers. They were a little chilly in Miami when they stepped off the plane. The girls have sundresses on, so it's a bit of shock to them, weather-wise."