Morning Sentinel
Student who survived Haitian quake home in Maine
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Staff Writer
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 01/18/2010

WATERVILLE -- Jessica Frick is haunted by the vision of buildings crashing down in front of her, people running frantic in the streets, and survivors screaming and yelling for their loved ones.

Frick, 21, a Colby College senior, was vacationing in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when the earthquake struck Tuesday, killing thousands of people and leaving much of the capital city in ruins.

She had never in her life experienced anything like it.

"The whole time, I was stunned," Frick said Sunday from her Eddington home. "I was like, this is something you see on TV, this is something you see in movies. It just didn't seem real."

Frick flew out of Haiti on a military plane to Florida late last week and finally arrived home in Eddington on Saturday after flying into Bangor at 6:30 p.m.

"I'm doing all right," she said. "I'm still feeling in kind of shock about it. I'm very relieved to be back home. If was a relief just to be back in the United States."

Frick and her Colby roommate and close friend, Yanica Faustin, 21, of New York City, had gone to Haiti Jan. 3 to visit Faustin's family in Port-au-Prince.

They had planned to spend 27 days there, and Frick hoped to volunteer at an orphanage.

It was not to be.

When the earthquake struck Tuesday, Frick, Faustin, Faustin's brother, Stefan, and two of his friends were in a car about 1/2 mile from Faustin's father's home, looking for a friend who had a swimming pool.

"We were lost, so we were driving around," Frick recalled. "We were driving and the car started shaking really hard. At first, I thought it was a pothole, because there are a lot of potholes in Haiti. Then I saw a house falling down. At first, I didn't know what it was. I thought they were demolishing a house."

What happened next was surreal, she said. They got out of the car. People were screaming and running. Buildings crashed in the street among the cars and people.

"There was so much dust in the air from buildings falling down, you couldn't see very far," Frick said.

"I was in shock. I didn't really know what was happening."

They managed to get back to Faustin's home and saw that a tall office building next to it had collapsed.

"Everyone was upset and crying."

People began to congregate in a flat area, away from buildings, as aftershocks were occurring and it was dangerous to go near or into buildings, she said.

"Later that night, Yanica's father came and we were all so relieved just to have some leadership," she said.

The large, extended family stayed together. Faustin's father, who divides his time between Haiti and New York City, is well-known in Port-Au-Prince and took charge, she said. They all slept outdoors on the ground that night, but it was difficult because there were aftershocks from the earthquake and they were frightened and uncomfortable.

"We tried to sleep, but it was hard."

The days were tough.

"It was all very hard, because there was no clean drinking water. Food was really scarce, but they got a big bag of rice and they managed to make one hot meal a day."

Frick, Faustin and her father were mugged as they wandered in the rubble: Frick's camera was stolen and Yanica's necklace yanked from her neck.

Ultimately, a movement was afoot to get Faustin and Frick out of the country and back to the U.S.

"I was at the embassy in Port-au-Prince for like, 16 hours, and they finally got us over to the airport, and we waited on the tarmac less than a hour," Frick said. "We were loaded on a military plane with around 60 people -- maybe less -- and we flew to Fort Lauderdale. We had no idea where we were going."

Frick paused when asked about dates and times for when she arrived at various places.

"I completely lost track of time for a while," she said.

From Fort Lauderdale, she and Faustin flew to New York, where Faustin returned home to Brooklyn. Frick had a seven-hour layover in New York and arrived in Bangor Saturday night.

Seeing her family again -- dad, Robyn; mom, Cindy; brother, Kyle, 18; and sister, Sarah, 19 -- was unforgettable.

"It was great," she said. "They were the first thing I thought about when the earthquake hit. I knew they would be worried."

Frick was adopted from China when she was 3 months old and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

She said she plans to return to Colby Feb. 3 and will graduate in May.

A psychology major with a concentration in neuroscience, she said she is applying to graduate schools and plans to earn a master's degree in social work, as well as a master's in child development.

She hopes to work in the adoption field and currently is an intern with the Maine Children's Home in Waterville.

Her experiences at Colby have been great, she said.

"I love Colby."

The best thing people can to help earthquake victims, she said, is continue to donate money. Frick plans to take that message with her to Colby when she returns.

"I think it's important for people to know about the situation, especially in Maine, since there aren't as many people involved. I think I will try to advocate for that case at Colby."

She said she also hopes to organize a fundraiser for Faustin's family -- specifically her father, whom she knows will share the funds with others in Haiti. She said Yanica Faustin is safe and with her mother.

"She's OK. She's with her family in New York City. She's really worried about her family in Haiti."

Asked what message she would want to send to the Colby and Waterville community who worried about her, Frick said, "I'm home, safe. I just want everyone to know that I'm OK."

Amy Calder -- 861-9247