A chartered United Airlines plane carrying 77 Haitian evacuees is back in Chicago after making the first of 30 one-day, round-trip flights to the earthquake-stricken country.
After a welcome by Gov. Pat Quinn, many accepted a free meal from McDonald's before boarding a bus to the O'Hare Hilton, where an American Red Cross Disaster Relief Center was setup to assist them. There, the refugees received food, medical care, hygiene kits and clothing.
Aboard the flight were at least nine children who were already in the process of being adopted in the United States.
"Children will likely be very frightened. They've been through extreme trauma," said Sid Mohn, the president of the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. "Our first effort is to really ensure that they feel safe [and are] in a nurturing, caring environment."
United Airlines, which typically doesn't fly to Haiti, is donating the flights and worked with federal authorities to get permission to land in Port-au-Prince.
The planes leaving Chicago will carry portions of a stockpile of water, sleeping tents, communications equipment and volunteers who want to travel to Haiti to offer aid.
"Providing our aircraft to transport these much needed resources to and from Haiti will save lives and help it recover from this devastating event," said Sonya Jackson, president of the United Airlines Foundation.
Seats available after the plane is emptied will be used to get some Haitian people out of the country.
More than 15,000 pounds of water was donated by Walgreens. The non-profit group Feed the Children offered up 384 tents and the communications equipment was donated by Airline Ambassadors.
Wednesday's flight out of Chicago came just as word that another strong aftershock had rattled Haiti.
"It makes me think that when I get to Port -Au-Prince I don't want to go into any buildings," said Bill Parker before he boarded the plane to Haiti.
Chicago Helps Haiti
Beginning at 5 a.m. Thursday, volunteers will be available to accept donations for the American Red Cross International Response Fund.
Donations can be made anytime at ChicagoRedCross.com/haiti. A text message to "90999" with the word "Haiti" will add $10 to your cell phone bill. That money will also be given to the Red Cross.