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RU Student is on a Mission for Haiti

RADFORD -- Jon Kilgore began to feel dizzy and handed his camera to a friend who was standing nearby.

“I felt like I was going to pass out,” Kilgore said.” The strange thing was everyone around him felt the same way as they stood in Cange, a small remote village about 30 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

At that dizzying moment, a catastrophic magnitude 7.1 earthquake had struck the Haitian capital, killing at least 150,000 people and injuring close to 200,000 more.

Kilgore, a junior education major at Radford University, was in Haiti with a mission group from Blacksburg United Methodist Church to help rebuild homes in Cite Soleil.

“We didn’t feel the violent shake,” Kilgore said. The mission group did not know that an earthquake had occurred until moments later when they went inside a house where they were staying and read news reports on the Internet.

“Everyone was panicked,” Kilgore recalled. Everyone in the group sent e-mails back to their families and friends to let them know they were safe. “My parents were freaking out, but they were glad to hear I was ok,” Kilgore said. “They said they were praying for us.”

Kilgore and others in the 15-person mission group had just left Port-au-Prince a few hours before the earthquake hit. They had stayed in the city the night before the quake and befriended two translators, Jackson and Fritzon.

The translators did not make the trip to Cange, and Kilgore and the mission group members had feared that Jackson and Fritzon had not survived the devastating earthquake.

Kilgore later sent an e-mail to Jackson, but received no response. He took some assurance in knowing that Jackson may have been without Internet access.

Finally, about a week and a half later, Jackson was able to send a reply.

“We finally got an e-mail from him saying they were ok,” Kilgore said. “Both were alive, but Jackson’s house collapsed and four of his family members were killed. He is sleeping on the streets now and worries about his country.”

Five people who had been at the mission house, where the group had stayed the night before, died in the disaster.

Kilgore and the others in the mission group were unable to return to Port-au-Prince to provide a helping hand to survivors. “We couldn’t go back,” he said. “Riots were forming and it was unsafe. We all wanted to go back, but it just wasn’t safe for us to be there.”

Instead, the group made its way to the Dominican Republic, where they boarded a plane bound for the U.S. They arrived at 6 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 17, three days after they originally were scheduled to arrive home.

“We were so overwhelmed on the flight home,” Kilgore recalled. “I think everyone was so stressed and kept quiet. We were all concerned for our friends in Haiti and wondered if they were ok.”

Kilgore wants to go back to Haiti when an opportunity arises, but, for now, he is helping rally support for one of the poorest and least developed nations in the world.

“Haiti needed our help before the earthquake, and they really need our help now,” Kilgore said. “I think I can help out while at home by telling people about Haiti and by being a voice for Haiti. What people need to know about Haiti is they need anything we can provide. The people there are loving and compassionate and we need to show that we are loving and compassionate, too. I am inspired by how much Americans have given and donated.”

Feb. 4, 2010
Contact: Chad Osborne (caosborne@radford.edu; 540-831-7761)

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