Rendell on Kids Rescue: “Feeling of Triumph”

Governor brokers deal to rescue 53 Haitian orphans from devastated nation

Hours after rescuing 53 orphans displaced by last week's cataclysmic earthquake in Haiti, Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell says he was thrilled to help.

In an interview with NBC Philadelphia's Tim Lake, the governor described how he, the children and 25 medical staff turned a government C-130 into a Noah's Ark of sorts.

"It was a hoot," he said. "There weren't enough seats, so the kids were sitting on top of people and the kids were great."

Onboard, Rendell said he served as the "stewardess," making sure the kids were comfortable.

"They were upbeat and happy and had a great time. All they wanted was snacks and coloring books and things like that," he said.

The governor and his wife Midge, a federal judge, traveled to the devastated island nation Monday to help broker a deal to bring dozens of orphans -- most of whom were already adopted -- from the BRESMA orphanage to the United States. Many of the children were in the process of being adopted by American families.

BRESMA had close ties to the commonwealth thanks to two sisters from a Pittsburgh suburb who lived and worked in the orphanage.

"There was a great feeling in the plane. A great feeling of triumph because we never knew if we were going to get all of the kids or any of the kids to take back," Rendell said.

Rendell said he never intended to go, but felt implored after the Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph said it wouldn't work without him.

"He said to me 'Governor, you have to go because there's going to be a time either in the air or on the ground when only you will be able to move the process,'" Rendell recalled.

And it was a good thing he did go. Upon arrival in Haitian airspace, the plane with the rescuers from Pennsylvania was denied entry until they found out the governor was on board.

"It had nothing to do with me or anything with my personality, but just the fact that the governor was in charge of the mission," he said.

The children were taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh when they touched down in the Keystone State. They'll stay at the hospital for as long as medically necessary and then be released to Catholic Charities, who will care for them until the adoptions are finalized.

The children along with hundreds others are being allowed into the country through an expedited adoption process in the wake of the earthquake.

"Those 200-300 children will be brought to the U.S. under what's called humanitarian parole and then the visas for those cases would be issued later on after the children were here," says Sam Wojnilower from Bala Cynwyd-based Adoptions from the Heart.

All of the expedited cases are in the final stages of the adoption process -- with each child already chosen a family.

Wojnilower also says Adoptions from the Heart has been inundated with calls of people asking if they could adopt a Haitian child. He says new adoptions will most likely take a while due to international adoption laws and the extent of the damage sustained in Haiti.

If you would like to help the people of Haiti, make a donation to a local or national relief organization.

You can also watch our special Haitian relief program Philadelphia's Hope for Haiti this Friday at 7 p.m. on NBC10 to learn how you can get involved.

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