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UPDATED: Paige Paulson is flying home from Haiti

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Her mother expects Paige Paulson to land at the Minneapolis airport at 1 p.m. Friday after leaving Haiti in the middle of the night. "I'm very excited," said Jackie Paulson, who took a call at 4:30 a.m. from Paige, saying she had landed in New Jersey, taken a bus to Philadelpia and was set to fly home after that. "At that hour, we were both a little giddy on the phone."

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Jackie said Paige described it as "crazy and quite an adventure getting out of the American embassy."

The church group she was with traveled at night by armored vehicle to the airport. There they boarded a cargo plane for the flight to the United States.

Paige had to leave many of her possessions behind. She was only allowed to grab her passport and backpack.

Paige, 21, a 2006 River Falls High School graduate, flew to Haiti Saturday to follow up on her work last year to help build an orphanage.

This time Paige returned to teach Vacation Bible School classes at the new orphanage. That teaching to about 60 Haitian kids was interrupted by Tuesday's earthquake that destroyed the capital, Port-Au-Prince.

The orphanage where Paulson was teaching is in Fedja, about 35 miles northwest of the capital.

At 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Paulson's mom, Jackie, suddenly got a phone call that eased her mind.

"It was from Paige, we spoke for about five minutes, and she said not to worry, she was on a list of people who could fly home in 24 hours," Jackie Paulson said. "I'm so thankful she's all right."

Paige is a junior majoring in social work at UW-River Falls. She made her second trip to Haiti under the auspices of Five Oaks Church in Woodbury, Minn.

Jackie said Paige was part of a large crowd holed up in the American Embassy in Haiti. She said Americans were waiting there because it's a sanctuary and to find out about how to get home.

Jackie is a care-plan coordinator at The Lutheran Home in River Falls.

She admitted to panicking after Tuesday's quake until she got an e-mail that night from Paige's church group leader saying everyone was all right.

Jackie said Paige was in the orphanage and felt vibrations and the ground rumbling but wasn't sure what happened. A woman from California, with earthquake experience, explained.

The orphanage was hardly damaged but aftershocks later cracked the foundation.

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Phil Pfuehler
Phil Pfuehler has been editor of the River Falls Journal since 1991.
(715) 426-1050
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