January 25, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU student shaken in Haiti earthquake would return in a 'heartbeat'
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - For Sara Trupp, a Slippery Rock University exercise and rehabilitative sciences major from Oley Valley, last week's Republic of Haiti earthquake is an experience she says she has already forgotten - her memory overshadowed by her desire to return to continue helping the people of the island nation.
"Even though the earthquake happened, I am not focusing on it right now. I would go back in a heartbeat just to help the people in need - my heart is really still there," Trupp said Wednesday from her home near Reading.
When the quake struck about 4:50 p.m. Jan. 12, Trupp followed the lead of others and fled to an open area of the compound where she was staying. She, and other members of her group, was uninjured, but some received bumps and bruises.
Trupp was in Haiti, just eight miles from the nation's largest city and capital Port-au-Prince, when the quake struck. She was part of a group of 13 others ages 16 to 83 from her church, Christ (Mertz) Lutheran Church in Dryville, offering volunteer service. The church group had gone to Haiti to lend a hand at the Lazarus Project at the Village of Hope.
"We had been working all day, and four of us were in a two-sided tool shed at the compound. We had just cleaned it up and were about done for the day. When the quake hit, the back wall of the shed collapsed," Trupp said. "We had been warned earlier that most of the roofs in Haiti are made from steel or tin, so often cattle, cats, other animals or falling fruit make loud noises. When the earthquake hit, I did not immediately know what it was. I saw the others running for the open and just joined in."
"It really did not quickly sink in that an earthquake had struck," Trupp said. "When the roof started shaking, I thought it was cat. It was only after the ground really started shaking did it click in my mind that it was an earthquake. I had never felt an earthquake."
"We quickly gathered around an outside table where we usually had dinner, and one girl in our group had a cell phone with service, so she called her home and said our entire group was safe and unharmed. We were able get the word out before the phone died," she said.
The first night was unsettling, even though Trupp said the compound was "pretty secure." She said the men in the group fixed bobwire fences at the compound in anticipation of possible looters and as a way to protect the food supplies at the center.
"We had already spent time working in the compound, including fixing the chapel, painting and varnishing pews and repairing and straightening their food depot," she said. Plans had called for the group to continue their community-service work, including delivering food to the poor of the area during the remainder of their stay.
"The buildings were mostly OK, so we went inside and tried to sleep, but the aftershocks kept us awake, so we pulled the mattresses outside. We could hear the children at a nearby orphanage/school singing, so we knew they were OK, and it was comforting. I don't think any in our group actually slept," Trupp said. At the orphanage/school no injuries were reported, with only minor damage to some buildings.
The following days, until her Sunday departure from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, were spent involved in community-service projects, including helping clear roads, stacking blocks from the rubble that can be used in the rebuilding effort and playing with, comforting and distracting children at the orphanage. To make use of their time, the group, including Trupp, helped restock shelves at the school and clean offices and rooms covered in dust from the earthquake.
Some in the group left the compound to help with water and food deliveries in the nearby area.
Trupp was met at the Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday afternoon by family and friends and after going through customs celebrated at a welcome home reception at their church.
Wednesday was spent sharing photos with family and friends and making plans to return to the SRU campus for Thursday and Friday classes. Trupp said she would return home for the weekend, adding, "It is a five-hour drive, so it just depends on how things go."
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