One Year Home

To read the previous post, click here.

I woke up on January 25, 2010 and was afraid to call it “Gotcha Day”.  That morning we read about 80 children in Orlando who were waiting to be processed.  They had been there for 48 hours.  We hoped Miami would have its act together.

We brought blankets and pillows in the car in case of a long wait.  We made an appointment for the following Saturday with our pediatrician.

We packed overnight bags and headed to Target for a car seat.  We told the checkout clerk where we were headed and showed her photos.

The Major spoke with Sen. Schumer’s aide to see if we could learn some information about IB’s arrival.  She didn’t know anything.

We drove through driving rain and experienced some pretty high winds.  I commented, “The hits just keep on coming, don’t they?”  TM replied, “Yes, but I’m going to win.”

As we pulled into Miami and were attempting to locate our Cuban Restaurant, we got a call telling us to report to the US Customs Patrol Border at the airport at 5.  As TM was getting all of the information he thought he dropped the call.  He began cursing and carrying on only to discover the person on the other end was still on the phone.  Opps!

We had a delicious lunch, followed by a walk on the beach.  We hurried back to the car to get to the airport.

We arrived an hour early to a small free-standing building on the far, dark end of Miami airport.  This was a customs facility which had a waiting area with comfortable chairs, bathrooms and vending machines.

One by one, five other families began to arrive.  Haiti-bonding began in earnest.

Many of these expectant moms grasped sheets of paper containing essential Kreyol expressions.  They frantically crammed for “the big exam” — how to ask your newly-arrived child “Are you hungry?” or “Do you have to poop?”

Our Haiti contact elected The Major spokesman for our group.  All information would flow through him.

After waiting for several hours, The Major received the news that a small airplane had departed Haiti with insufficient fuel to reach Miami. Due to the earthquake, all of the Caribbean was experiencing a fuel shortage.  The plane landed on an island called Exuma.

No one had ever heard of this place.  It sounded like a skin condition.  We learned that it was in the Bahamas.

Our contact further advised all parents not to leave the airport.  If the plane arrived and parents were absent, the children could be placed into custody by Child Protective Services.  We weren’t going anywhere!

TM called a friend who was dating a pilot.  After providing him with the tail number of the Piper Navajo plane, he showed us a website to track the progress of the plane.  On our smart phones, we learned that the plane had left Exuma 9 minutes earlier!  It was expected to land in Miami at 9 pm.

On our phones, we watched the small blip representing our plane cross The Bermuda Triangle.  It seemed to take an eternity.

We watched a little plane land.  We confirmed it was our plane from the flight number on the tail.  We were so excited!

Waiting for the plane to land

The plane pulled up to the customs building.  We could not catch of glimpse of anyone on board.

We waited impatiently with the other families in the reception area while the kids cleared immigration.  Because these children had no papers and were entering the country under a special status called “humanitarian parole,” we had no idea how long this processing would take.  We were told they were being processed together and would be coming out together.

Anytime an agent emerged from behind the smoked glass doors at the end of the hall, he would tell us, “It shouldn’t be much longer.”  Someone got a phone call saying the kids had been given candy and were fine and happy.

Watching for their brother

Just then we heard a child crying.  It sounded like a familiar cry, but we weren’t sure.

An agent popped his head out to say that the kids were on their way out. The waiting was killing us.  Little by little we had all crept our way up the long hallway to the smoked-glass doors from where our children would emerge.

Suddenly, the doors opened and the kids came out with our adoption coordinator.  Our little guy was the one crying.

I got down on my knees, held out my arms and IB came to me.  It was short lived.  As soon as he saw Papa, he held out his arms.  He had not seen his father in many months.  The Major had been worried over whether IB would remember him.

It was celebration-central.  There were smiles and tears.

The kids were hungry and crying.

Subway Dude and The Fashionista got to meet their brother for the first time.  Words fail me here.

We realized that we had an audience: all of the immigration officers were watching this event with great, big smiles.  One agent commented, “I would work for free for something like this.”

We were given a little piece of paper labeled Humanitarian Parole that had IB’s photo on it.  The lady who runs IB’s orphanage, Barbara Walker, stated, “Here’s your ownership papers.”  We laughed.

This lady is a miracle worker!

After about an hour of celebrating and IB eating granola bars, we headed out to the parking lot and said good-bye to the other families.  IB went into his brand-new car seat.

The rental car wouldn’t start!

Unbelievable!  We were frantic.  We had a new child just arrived from an earthquake-torn nation and we couldn’t safely whisk him away from this dark and sketchy neighborhood of Miami.

The rental company wanted to send a tow truck.  The Major frantically convinced them to send a new car to us.  However, they couldn’t tell us how long the wait would be.

We were on the verge of tears.

Subway Dude saved the day.  He suggested putting the car in neutral to start it.  It worked.

We drove to the rental car agency and got an upgrade to an SUV.

It was now midnight — far too late to drive back to Orlando.  However, we could not stay in this part of Miami.

We began driving northward.  When we hit Hollywood, we pulled off the road.

We found a Holiday Inn and stayed in a suite for the night.

The ordeal was over.

Our family was finally complete.

Happy Gotcha Day!

Holiday Inn Lobby

-Running Girl

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cecily on January 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    I imagine it wasn’t easy to share such private moments with us but your story is beautiful and uplifting. How lucky are we to get to see first-hand the “happily ever after”.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Lynne Levy on January 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Tears and smiles here too, a year later. Thanks for being willing to share all the details. It means a lot.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Teresa Lancer on January 26, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    I can see it all in my mind. Thank you for sharing it in detail. I learned so much more from reading this. Happy 1 year of being parents of a third child and HAPPY GOTCHA DAY TO THE FIVE OF YOU! It seems like that year just flew by. Grandpa got home too late to call last night but you all were in our thoughts. Love to all<3

    Reply

  4. Posted by Greg on January 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    I just searched “Gotcha day” and found this blog. Thanks for posting your story! I know I am a stranger but, my wife and I adopted twin from Haiti (Canadians) and have a very similar story. Today is our Gotcha day 1 year anniversary.

    We escaped to Montreal as opposed to Miami as we waited to hear when our kids would be flown out.

    Congratulations on Gotcha day! I am happy for you.

    Reply

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