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Woman from Hamilton County recounts journey out of chaos in Haiti

ARCADIA, Ind. (WISH) — Haitian gangs are still holding 17 missionaries hostage.

A central Indiana woman who was in Haiti at the time says she could have just as easily been taken. She’s now warning others to delay any upcoming trips to Haiti.

Haiti has been home for Jessica Eugene for about a dozen years. She’s continuing mission work her aunt started nearly 40 years ago. She never feared for her life until this past weekend trying to get to the Port-au-Prince-Toussaint Louverture International Airport. She said the violence brought on by gangs is devastating.

A presidential assassination sent Haiti into a tailspin. That’s in addition to a devastating earthquake and tropical storm.

But despite all that, it didn’t’ keep Eugene from doing her work. Now, she wishes it had.

“I know what I need to do in emergency situations. But I never experienced anything I had to go through this time. And I’ve never been in fear of my life. But this time I was in fear of my life.”

Damou Christian Missions has served in Haiti since 1984. Eugene is originally from Arcadia, a town north of Indianapolis in Hamilton County. For 12 years, Eugene and her Haitian husband have taken lead on the family mission, operating a school, clinic and elderly homes. She was there working when gangs kidnapped 17 people from a unconnected mission team.

“Within 10 minutes of me being there, everybody is yelling at me, telling me I need to leave, saying I need to get out.”

Trying to get to the airport turned out back-to-back barricades. Those brave enough to try to get through, Eugene said, were met with violence. She finally found an opening.

“I had to go across the river and so finally I had to get on the back of one of my workers. He carried me across the river.”

With less than an hours left to make her flight she ran through the streets. All the while hearing people shouting threats and warnings.

“I kept saying in the back of my head in order to serve we have to live another day.”

Finally getting to the airport she heard the news about the 17 missionaries, missionaries like her, who were captured.

“That could have been me that was being stopped in the middle of the road. And being told to get out by gunpoint. Not knowing if I would ever see my family again.”

She said her husband is still in Haiti. And although he’s Haitian, he’s put his work on hold at least for the next week to not be seen as a potential target. At this time, she doesn’t know when she and the children will be able to go back.