Arlington resident Katie Zook recounts Haiti earthquake, recovery

Arlington resident Katie Zook, who suffered a number of injuries during the January earthquake in Haiti, is at home recovering from her injuries. - Adam Rudnick
Arlington resident Katie Zook, who suffered a number of injuries during the January earthquake in Haiti, is at home recovering from her injuries.
— image credit: Adam Rudnick

ARLINGTON — Katie Zook had just looked at the clock before the earthquake hit. It read 4:58 p.m.

From there it went black.

Zook was told she spent three and a half hours buried under the rubble of a four-story building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before she was pulled out and taken to the country’s United Nations Hospital for treatment.

“It was pitch black outside when they pulled me out of the basement,” Zook said Saturday, March 27 from her Arlington home. “In Haiti, there’s always fires, electricity and lights. I thought that it’s never this dark. I thought there was no way that this was real.”

Looking back on the magnitude 7.0 quake that killed three of her colleagues and fellow missionaries on January 12, Zook said she still can’t explain how she survived.

“All the people who saw the building fall said it was horrible,” said Zook, 22. “There are so many things that can only be explained by miracles.”

Zook was doing missionary work for the Arlington Free Methodist Church when the earthquake that devastated Haiti shook down the Friends of Haiti Organization building, where she was staying.

Zook was on the top floor when the quake began. She said it sounded like a jet was going to hit the building, so she quickly dove under a round, sturdy table.

The force of the earthquake knocked her out for what Zook thought was an hour. When she awoke, she saw that her left side, including her leg, was buried under rubble.

She couldn’t yell — her nose was full of concrete dust and she would later find out that she had a collapsed lung.

Zook said she talked to herself to stay calm.

“Fear outweighed panic after the earthquake,” Zook said. “When I came to, I thought I could get out. I told myself to stop being a wuss. I now realized that it was God talking to me.”

Zook was eventually rescued and, after being airlifted to Guantanamo Bay, flown to Florida where she would spend 25 days receiving treatment for her extensive but non-life threatening injuries, which included a compound fracture to her vertebrae and substantial crush damage to the left side of her body.

Specialists were able to fuse her damaged vertebrae and ease the swelling of her body that resulted from being smashed under debris.

She came home in February, and has continued to rehabilitate her injuries. That includes wearing a back brace for another five weeks and undergoing physical therapy once per week for her left shoulder and arm.

“As soon as I can take off my brace, I can resume a pretty normal life,” Zook said. “My doctors have been impressed. They tell me I’m young and healthy.”

Zook, who attended Arlington High School and has been an active member in the Free Methodist Church, said she has been grateful for all the support her family and she have received since coming back to Arlington.

“We’ve had an outpouring of support,” she said. “We have two insurance companies and we recently found out that we might need some help. We are blessed to have people thinking ahead for us.”

Despite the trauma that resulted from the earthquake, Zook said that she can’t wait to go back — sooner rather than later.

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