Fifty-three Haitian orphans landed in Pennsylvania early Tuesday after spending days with American caretakers who used Facebook and Twitter to let the world know they were in dire need of food, water, diapers -- and a plane to ferry them out of Port-au-Prince after last week's massive earthquake.
Gov. Ed Rendell, a crew of medical personnel and several congressmen also were on the U.S. Air Force flight that carried the group out of Haiti late Monday and headed for a base in the Miami area. From there, the group flew to Pittsburgh.
Upon arrival, the children, who are up to 4 years old, headed to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh to be examined by pediatricians, hospital spokesman Marc Lukasiak said. They will be placed in group homes until adoptions are finalized.
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Chad McMutrie, the brother of one of the suburban Pittsburgh women who was caring for the children, said it appeared none of the children were hurt in the earthquake, but the orphanage was so badly damaged his sisters and the children were living in the courtyard. Food and water were scarce, and the women feared violent looting would further put them in danger.
The children's saga played out on the Web's largest social networking sites and on blogs beginning hours after the earthquake shook the Haitian capital, destroying or damaging most buildings, killing an estimated 200,000 people and leaving 1.5 million more homeless.
Jamie McMutrie, who has been working in the BRESMA orphanage since 2006, and Alison McMutrie, who followed her older sister to Haiti about two years ago, were in their car on the way to the supermarket when the earthquake struck. They were unharmed but frantic.
Through the U.S. Embassy, the McMutries quickly got word to their family in the U.S. that they were safe. Then they went to check on the children, many of whom already had adoptive families picked out in America and awaited paperwork to leave their old lives in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country for new lives in one of the world's richest.
The McMutries borrowed a cell phone and sent an e-mail stressing the need for food and water and making it clear the children could only survive for a few days. They needed a plane, they said, and stressed they would go nowhere without the children.
Jamie McMutrie's husband, Doug Heckman, and Chad McMutrie, went to work. They tweeted and posted Facebook messages. They had people blog about the plight. They asked for donations and filled an office in Pittsburgh with food, clothing and baby formula, preparing for the orphans to arrive.
They also contacted U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, former U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan and anyone
else who would listen.
Early Monday, after days of constant Web chatter and media interviews, a flight that included Rendell left for Haiti. They arrived Tuesday in Pittsburgh.