Marin woman comes home after aiding Haiti victims 

A Marin County woman is returning to the Bay Area on Monday from Haiti, where she survived the 7.0-magnitude earthquake on Tuesday and stayed behind to help after her family had flown home.

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak is scheduled to arrive at San Francisco International Airport sometime after 2 p.m. Monday and will be met by her husband, Mark Pasternak, and two daughters, ages 12 and 15.

The family was traveling in a van with San Rafael resident Barbara Wander and several others to a school in Riviere Froide, on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, when the earthquake hit shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

They had spent the day in the village of Signeau building rabbit hutches as part of a volunteer project. The Pasternaks, who own Devils Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, have traveled to Haiti regularly to volunteer since 2007.

The earthquake felt like little more than a bumpy road from the van, but when they arrived at Riviere Froide, they found that the three-story school had collapsed, trapping hundreds of children.

The survivors worked through the night to pull children from the rubble, rescuing 25 and extracting the bodies of 30 children who had died. As of Friday, an estimated 100 children remained trapped in the collapsed building.

Mark Pasternak was able to get on a U.S. Coast Guard flight from Haiti to the Dominican Republic on Thursday night and returned home Saturday.

Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak stayed behind with Wander, continuing to help children at the school before heading to the Port-au-Prince airport and hitching a ride out of Haiti Sunday with a private pilot from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

On the flight to Florida, she helped a patient on board who was critically injured, Mark Pasternak said.

The Pasternaks are anxious to spread the word that help is still desperately needed in the rural village of Riviere Froide. On Friday, rescue efforts at the school were at a standstill, with helpless survivors unable to extract trapped children without tools or machinery.

Mark Pasternak said that when his wife left Riviere Froide, no aid had yet arrived.

Photos taken by Pasternak's daughters and posted on the Devils Gulch Ranch Web site at show the school flattened, with a blue staircase resting on the ground.

"Those (stairs) were from the second to the third story of the school," Pasternak said.

Pasternak said his wife had told him by phone that communication appears to be the biggest problem, with aid workers arriving in Haiti unsure of where to go.

She had met a man in Florida who runs a mining company and was headed to Haiti to try to dig people out of the rubble.

"She was trying to give this mining guy some direction to where we had been," Pasternak said.

The Pasternaks have told everyone they could about the school, including local ambulance workers and a regional United Nations office.

Pasternak said the school is somewhat hard to find.

"It's up a hill, it's hard to get to, it's the end of the road, so I understand it, I just want to try to get the word to some search-and-rescue teams to get the hell up there if they can," he said.

He said he is trying to get a message to Larry King to mention Riviere Froide in a TV special on the earthquake tonight.

Wander, a longtime San Rafael schoolteacher who has been volunteering in Haiti periodically for the past nine years, will likely return to the Bay Area this week.

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