Two students return to U.S., one still trapped in Haiti

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January 14, 2010

10:37 AM

*UPDATE: 5 p.m. Thursday*

Knappenberger and Yarrington have returned to the United States, according to Knappenberger’s mother, Mary Hanna. The two reportedly are in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., seeking a flight to Newport News.

They were in Haiti working on independent research projects in anthropology.

At least one other College of William and Mary student in Haiti, Danny Yates ’13, is safe, his family says. Yates was with a church group from St. Bridget Catholic Church and the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, Va. He and four others were in Haiti checking on missions there.

At the time of the earthquake the group was in Hinche, approximately 50 miles from the capital city. The group was unharmed and is working to return to the United States.

“We are very thankful that they are safe and were not physically injured in this very sad and tragic event,” College spokesman Brian Whitson said in a statement. “It is hard to imagine what they have been through.”

_Check back with Flathatnews.com for more updates in this developing story._

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Two College of William and Mary students are caught among the destruction and chaos in Haiti after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the island nation Tuesday afternoon.

Although internet access and phone service is limited, Jonna Knappenberger ’09, who is in Haiti with Landon Yarrington M.A. ’09 Ph.D ’15, sent the following e-mail to The Flat Hat early Thursday morning.

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My name is Jonna Knappenberger and I am here in Port-au-Prince with my partner Landon Yarrington, currently at the Minustah headquarters in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

We survived the earthquake physically unscathed (we were in Delmas 17, in the city). We have a story to tell — though personal and grave. We are both lucky to have been in the street a few blocks from where we were staying when [the] earthquake happened. Landon tried to organize the Delmas 17/Rue Verna neighborhood to get them to bring their injured and wounded to one safe spot. By the time he left that night there were probably over 200 people in that area, and of course others on the streets. I went to Minustah (got a ride with Pakistani UN workers) before he did that night to tell them where he and this makeshift triage area was at. We were eventually reunited here on the base and have been here ever since.

Right now we are trying to find a way out. We are being told a number of different things. We lost everything (passports, IDs) except for the clothes on our backs, two cameras and a notebook. By people on the base, we are being told the US embassy might not let us in or help us get out (which means if we somehow get there we might get stranded outside). We are being told the Marines and Red Cross are coming and “we’ll know when they get here” and we might or might not be able to leave with them without passports. We are also being told that if the UN higher officials find out we’re on base without appropriate IDs we might get kicked off. So, our situation is precarious.

Last night around 10 or 10:30 we were sleeping on the floor of a UN building and people ran in saying a tsunami was coming. Apparently everyone in the city had heard/spread this rumor and so everyone piled into UN cars here at the base and started up the roads towards the mountains (Kenskoff). I did not see anyone on the streets as we drove, but there were reports of residents running uphill. We eventually heard on the radio that it was rumor and we returned back to the camp.

The UN people (American police, Romanians, Chinese, others) are being very gracious and kind letting us stay here and sharing their food and supplies. Landon has been volunteering at the triage hospital here. Nobody knows anything. Supposedly the embassy knows we’re here. It is understandable that we are waiting — obviously so many people need help here.

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