Haiti Quake Survivor Returns to Bay Area Home

Thursday, Jun 30, 2011  |  Updated 7:11 AM PDT
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Dramatic Photos: Earthquake Aftermath in Haiti

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Rescuers search a collapsed section of the Hotel Montana in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Eight people, including seven Americans, have been rescued from the rubble at the hotel.

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A Marin County woman arrived back in the Bay Area Monday afternoon after surviving the 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti last Tuesday then staying behind to help after her family had flown home.

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak landed at San Francisco International  Airport shortly after 4 p.m. and was met by her husband, Mark Pasternak, daughters Kyla, 12, and Lydia, 15 and several TV crews.

The family alerted the media of her arrival in order to spread the message that aid is desperately needed in the rural area outside the capital where they were volunteering.

When the earthquake hit shortly before 5 p.m. last Tuesday, Mark Pasternak and his daughters were in a van with San Rafael resident Barbara Wander and several others, headed to a school in Riviere Froide, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.

They had spent the day in the village of Signeau building rabbit hutches as part of a volunteer project. The Pasternaks, who own Devils Gulch  Ranch in Nicasio, have traveled to Haiti regularly to volunteer since 2007.

The earthquake felt like little more than a bumpy road from the van, but when Pasternak and his daughters arrived at Riviere Froide, they  found that the three-story school had collapsed, trapping hundreds of  children inside, including many orphans and disabled children.

Kaplan-Pasternak, who was running errands in Port-au-Prince that  day, was unhurt and arrived back at the school shortly after her family. The  survivors worked through the night to pull about 100 children from the  rubble, 25 of whom died, Kaplan-Pasternak said Monday.

Kaplan-Pasternak spoke calmly Monday about what she had seen, but her descriptions were heartbreaking.

"We had this one girl who was missing a whole portion of her  skull," she said.

When she left Haiti, it was estimated that there were 100 or more  children still trapped in the collapsed school. Now the Pasternaks are  anxious to spread the word that help is urgently needed in Riviere Froide.  When she left, Kaplan-Pasternak said, no aid had arrived.

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