There were cheers, tears and hugs as members of a Delaware church group who were stranded in Haiti amid violent protests reunited with their loved ones at Philadelphia International Airport Wednesday.
NBC10 was there as 15 teens and five adults from Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Bear, Delaware, were greeted by their cheering family members holding up signs at baggage claim.
"Just overwhelmed with joy," Rebecka Runner-Draper, the mom of one of the teens, told NBC10. "So happy that she's here."
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Cornerstone Pastor Roger Frederick led the group on a week-long mission trip to Haiti last week.
During their stay, Haiti’s government announced an increase in gasoline prices in which a liter of regular gas would cost nearly $5. The announcement sparked violent protests as people reportedly burned tires and vandalized businesses in Haiti’s capital. At least three people were killed.
With the situation still chaotic, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince on Sunday warned U.S. citizens to shelter in place.
“They were burning tires in the streets and they couldn’t travel safely,” Pastor Paul Owens of Cornerstone United Methodist Church, said. “I guess the embassy said stay in place, be safe where you’re at. Don’t try to go out.”
Runner-Draper's daughter Elli said they were a good distance away from the violence as they hunkered down in a compound.
"They did such an amazing job keeping us safe and the neighbors as well," she said. "They were so kind to us. They brought us food, they made us a whole dinner, because they knew we were missing home."
Passengers traveling to and from Haiti from the United States were on standby, as some airlines canceled flights due to the violence. Flight arrangements for the group were pushed to Monday, then Tuesday and finally Wednesday when they departed.
"It was a little nerve-wracking," Karianne Opalach said. "But I'm just beyond grateful to be home right now."
Karianne's mother Sue Opalach was there to greet her daughter at the airport.
"I can't thank the Haitian people enough," Sue Opalach said. "It's a wonderful group of people. They're very loving and very caring."
Even after their experience, the teens in the group say they want to go back to Haiti to do more mission work.
"I'm really glad to be home but I also can't wait to go back," Elli Runner-Draper said. "So this isn't going to deter me from going back."