Clutching her rosary beads, Cecelia Cortes-Peck painfully remembers the nightmare she endured in Haiti.
“Complete devastation,” said Cortes-Peck. “It was like war has happened there. A different kind of war.”
She is one of 10 missionaries from Jesus The Devine Word who went to the country last Friday to help take care of little children. The church has made this trip to the Missionaries of Charity
twice before, but on Tuesday, this third visit went terribly wrong.
“The earth started to shake,” said Cortes-Peck. “The fence that had the barb wire and all the safety and security for the compound started to crumble.”
Back in Maryland the pastor of the church was worried sick about his missionaries, but he know that they were still alive because he was receiving updates from their text messages.
Father Daniel Leary
, whose sister and niece were also on the trip, vividly remembers one of the conversations.
“I said how are you doing,” said Leary. “And the text came back and said the children are really helping us. And I texted back, what a great paradox. I thought you were there to help the children. The text came back. One of them just wiped the tears from my eyes. She said these children are amazing.”
While the missionaries -- still in Haiti -- slept on the floor and endured dozens of aftershocks, the church set up a vigil and prayed for their safe return.
Meanwhile father Leary and the women’s husbands worked with the U.S.
government to set up a flight to bring the women home. Cortes-Peck said yesterday, without warning, the group was told to pile into a van. They maneuvered through the shattered roads, boarded a plane, and at around 12:30 this morning, the 10 women were back on American soil, reunited with their families.
“It’s like you were reborn,” said Cortes-Peck. “It’s like you got another chance.”