Ali and Jamie McMutrie struggled to make sense yesterday of the 10 days since an earthquake destroyed their beloved Haiti, prompting pleas for help that were finally answered earlier this week by a rescue mission that brought them home to Pittsburgh.
The Ben Avon sisters had cared for the 54 orphans who were evacuated with them for years, in some cases. Yesterday, as many of them were taken home by their adoptive families, they said goodbye.
Jamie McMutrie, 30, said she still did not know the logistics of how they were saved from the crumbling city, where they had feared for the children's lives.
The sisters and the children had been brought to Pittsburgh earlier this week on a plane shepherded by Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless.
"I know that people came together for us, complete strangers -- people who had never even heard our name," said Ali McMutrie, 22.
Yesterday evening, about 20 of the children remained. One of the children, a 3-year-old boy named Fredo, had since been adopted by the sisters' parents, Sam and Diane. Many of the children were scheduled to be picked up by adoptive families last night.
Meanwhile, the 12 remaining orphans were moved from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to the Holy Family Institute, a social services organization in Emsworth that houses about 50 other children. The institute will care indefinitely for the children who do not have adoptive families.
Sister Linda Yankoski, president of the institute, said she was given 24 hours notice that the children were coming. Her staff scurried to prepare for their arrival.
"These children have just been through so much," she said. "The goal right now is to settle in and just go through the daily routines of life."
At a news conference yesterday, the sisters spoke of the fearful days and nights following the earthquake.
"We had walls around our houses, but they weren't safe," said Jamie McMutrie.
"And there were gunshots every night, really close," said Ali McMutrie.
As the starving people outside their walls became hungrier, the sisters worried more.
"We could tell it was going to get bad, we just didn't know exactly when," said Ali McMutrie.
Jamie McMutrie said they spent nearly a whole day without water. They kept receiving text messages telling them that help could come any moment.
"We were almost sure it wasn't going to work," said Jamie McMutrie. "We were just hoping."
"I'm a little bit afraid that once everything dies down, it will sink in, and we're not going to be the same as we used to be," said Ali McMutrie. "We've seen a lot of really horrific things."
The sisters said they are not yet sure what their next move will be, but they know it will involve the people of Haiti.
Vivian Nereim can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1413. First Published January 22, 2010 5:45 AM