March 3, 2010

Maine student weathers quake

AMY CALDER

— By

click image to enlarge

Courtesy photo This is a two-line cutline -- Cindy Frick, left, hugs her daughter Jessica, a senior at Colby College, during a family reunion at Bangor International Airport Saturday night. Jessica Frick and fellow Colby student Yanica Faustin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had been in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when Tuesday’s devastating earthquake struck.

Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Jessica Frick is haunted by the vision of buildings crashing down in front of her, people running frantically in the streets and survivors screaming 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 in ruins.

Frick had never experienced anything like it.

''I was like, this is something you see on TV, this is something you see in movies,'' she said Sunday from her Eddington home. ''It just didn't seem real.''

Frick flew out of Haiti on a military plane to Florida late last week and arrived home Saturday after flying into Bangor.

''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. It was a relief just to be back in the United States.''

Frick and her Colby roommate and close friend, Yanica Faustin, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., had gone to Haiti on 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 a half-mile from Faustin's father's home, looking for a friend who had a swimming pool.

''The car started shaking really hard,'' Frick recalled. ''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.

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

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

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

The 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 more aftershocks and they were frightened and uncomfortable.

The days were tough.

''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 was yanked from her neck.

Ultimately, a movement was afoot to get Faustin and Frick back to the United States.

''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 an 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.''

From Florida, 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 on Saturday night.

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

''They were the first thing I thought about when the earthquake hit. I knew they would be worried,'' Frick said.

The best thing people can do to help earthquake victims, she said, is continue to donate money. Frick plans to take that message with her to Colby when she returns Feb. 3.

''It's important for people to know about the situation, especially in Maine, since there aren't as many people involved.''

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

 

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