Haitian Orphan's Heartbreaking Last Goodbye Before Earthquake

Anatie, 4, was crushed in the quake a day after her mother-to-be said goodbye.

ByABC News via logo
January 14, 2010, 1:02 PM

Jan. 15, 2010— -- Lorie Johnson had led four-year-old orphan Atanie into school Monday at a mountainside orphanage near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when the little girl bolted from the classroom, sprinted back outside and bounded up into her arms.

"She told me she loved me," Johnson said. She was hoping to adopt Atanie. Then, as always, Johnson told Atanie she was "her princess" and sent her smiling back inside.

The brief, touching exchange took place less than 48 hours before the city of Port-au-Prince and the orphanage were flattened in the most catastrophic earthquake the area has seen in two centuries. When the school collapsed, everyone rushed to get out.

Atanie was the only one who didn't make it.

"It's hard to see somebody hours earlier, seeing them happy and healthy, then having someone come and tell you they're crushed, they're dead," Johnson said.

Johnson had flown home to Knoxville, Tenn., Monday afternoon. When she heard about the quake Tuesday evening, she said she could feel tragedy coming.

"Tuesday was filled with anguish. I had a bad feeling something was wrong; somehow our girls weren't OK," Johnson said of Atanie and the other girls her church group sponsored at the school.

Click here to learn about the effort to rebuild Atanie's orphanage.

It was a late-night knock at her door that confirmed Atanie's fate. Two people from the church group broke the news. Atanie was running down the stairs between the first and second floors when everything came down.

Johnson didn't ask for any more details. She said she didn't want to know.

Adopting the girl had been "kind of what our plans were when I got back this week," Johnson said. "But we never got that far."