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‘Tuesdays With Morrie’ Author Evacuated From Haiti Amid Rising Gang Violence

Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

A group of 10 Americans, among them prolific author Mitch Albom, were evacuated from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday amid chaos and spiraling civil disorder as gangs overrun the country.

The 65-year-old novelist was left stranded when the violence exploded late last month amid a trip he and his wife had been leading to visit his orphanage, Have Faith Haiti, he said in an Instagram post confirming he was back in the United States.

“We were luckier than a lot of others,” he said, adding in the caption that many others, including Haiti’s population, remained under threat.

Albom and his wife had been sheltering in place since a state of emergency was declared on March 3 in response to a gang coalition’s coordinated assault on two Port-au-Prince jails, leading to the escape of thousands of inmates. Suddenly, he told NBC News, the “airports were closed, the ports were closed, the roads were closed and… we had no way out.”

The rescue operation was launched by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI), who told the Detroit Free Press, where Albom is a columnist, that she’d called the Tuesdays with Morrie author over the weekend after an “extremely distraught” constituent contacted her about the situation. (The majority of the volunteer group were Michiganers, McClain’s office confirmed to the Detroit News.) After two days of “coordinated efforts,” Albom told the Free Press, a helicopter flew into Port-au-Prince to get the group out.

Aboard the helicopter was Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL), a U.S. Army veteran whom McClain had contacted to help with the mission. “We tried to use the government channels... We tried to go through the proper channels,” she told the Free Press. “No one was calling us back. We couldn’t get any answers.”

Mills provided Fox News with images of the nighttime rescue showing Albom on the helicopter. It was not immediately clear if the evacuation had taken place at the orphanage or another site.

“It was very, very fast, very, very hectic, like something out of a movie,” Albom said in an interview with Fox host Brian Kilmeade. “But what's important to remember isn’t just that we got out, it’s that there’s so many people there who are still there—Americans, Canadians who are not getting the help that they need, particularly from their governments.”

McClain announced the successful rescue at a Tuesday hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, crowing that Mills had “actually participated in the rescue of those Americans abandoned by the Biden administration and the State Department,” according to the Boston Herald.

“So I ask you all: What exactly is the plan to get Americans trapped in Haiti out?” she asked. “We don’t have one. Mr. Chairman, this administration doesn’t seem to have a problem with abandoning Americans overseas.”

At the same hearing, McClain pressed Gen. Laura Richardson, head of the U.S. Southern Command, on whether the Biden administration or State Department had contacted her about Albom and the other trapped volunteers. Richardson said she had not yet received a “request for support” to get them out, but pointed out that there may have “possibly [been] discussions above my level regarding that.”

A day later, U.S. Southern Command announced in a press release that a fleet-anti-terrorism security team of Marines had been deployed to Port-au-Prince’s American embassy. The team had been sent to help “maintain strong security capabilities at the U.S. Embassy,” “conduct relief in place for our current Marines,” and “allow additional non-emergency personnel to depart.” It was not immediately clear when the operation, which was completed successfully, had taken place.

The Daily Beast has contacted U.S. Southern Command and the State Department for further information.

Albom told Fox News that they had had to be “very careful” boarding the helicopter, as the gangs marauding through the capital have “been known to shoot at helicopters for fear that they might be carrying Ariel Henry,” the country’s embattled prime minister.

Henry, whose term was meant to end earlier this year, was put under immense international pressure to step down from office after the gangs launched their attacks, threatening “civil war” and “genocide” should he remain in power. He announced late Monday that he would resign once a transitional council had been established.

“It hurts us and it revolts us to see all these people dying,” Henry said in a speech posted on Facebook. “The government that I lead cannot remain insensitive to this situation.”

Henry himself remains stranded—outside of Haiti, to which he has been unable to return since conducting a diplomatic mission to Kenya earlier this month. He is believed to be in Puerto Rico.

“I’ve seen a lot of violence in Haiti, and we were there when President [Jovenel Moïse] got assassinated, but this last stretch was as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Albom explained to Kilmeade. “This isn’t a way for people to live.”

The writer said in his Instagram post that saying goodbye to the children in his orphanage, which he has run since Port-au-Prince’s devastating 2010 earthquake, had been “horribly difficult.” He promised to return “the moment it is possible.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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