Mitch Albom recounts escaping Haiti: 'Big rugby scrum inside this helicopter'

A small helicopter came in the dead of night to rescue Mitch Albom, his wife, and eight volunteers from Haiti, where they were trapped amid gang violence in the country.

Albom, a Detroit author and journalist, visits Haiti monthly because an orphanage run by his charity is located there. During his most recent visit, Albom and his group found themselves trapped.

He said he was told help was coming, but it didn't.

"There was literally no way to get out," Albom said. "It was pretty obvious we were going to have to find a way out on our own."


Mitch Albom, volunteers airlifted from Haiti amid gang violence

After several failed attempts to escape Haiti with other groups, Albom, his wife Janine Sabino, and the eight volunteers they were with are now safe.

He said it took several botched attempts to get help, describing a night when the group was left waiting atop a hill for a helicopter that never came.

Eventually, congress members Lisa McClain and Corey Mills were able to plan a rescue, and a helicopter arrived "in the dark of night" early Tuesday. However, when the helicopter arrived, an additional issue arose. The helicopter was smaller than expected, so they had to leave all of their belongings behind.

Albom said the group piled into the four-seat helicopter in about 60 seconds, all while praying that no one would shoot at them.

"It was just a big rugby scrum inside this helicopter," he said.

Once the helicopter was out of Haiti's airspace, the volunteers began cheering. Albom said it was a tough moment for him, though, because he had to leave the children behind at the orphanage. 

"I'm happy that we got out, that's great, but what about them? They can't go anywhere," he said.

Albom said the orphanage is secure, but that doesn't fully shield it from what is happening in the country. 

"We hear gunfire every single night," he said, adding that it can be heard while the children are singing their evening prayer. 

Now that Albom is home, he is urging United States leaders to get more involved in helping those stuck in Haiti, including other Americans who weren't so lucky.

Hear more from Mitch Albom in the video above.

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