BLAINE, Minn. – Betsy Sathers wears the glow of a new mother as she perches on the couch in her family room, smiling and chatting with visitors while still managing to keep an eye on the 2-year-old twins burbling and cavorting at her feet.
Sathers — whose husband was killed when a Minneapolis freeway bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River in 2007 — is realizing her dreams of being a mother with the adoption of Ross and Alyse from Haiti.
The twins, brought to Sathers' home just days after the earthquake in Haiti, suck from baby bottles and drag toys across the floor. On the wall hangs a framed wedding day photo of Sathers and her late husband, Scott.
"I wasn't sure if I would ever be a wife again, and I was really all right with that. But I knew that I wanted to be a mom and I thought about it and I prayed about it a long, long time," Sathers said.
Betsy and Scott Sathers had been married just 10 months when the Interstate 35W bridge fell apart in August 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145.
The young couple had talked about starting a family. At the time of the collapse, Betsy Sathers had thought she might even be pregnant. She later found she was not, adding to her pain: "I was grieving the loss of my husband and the family we had hoped to have together."
Now the children she hoped to have are finally here.
"I don't think I rescued them," Sathers, 33, said of the twins. "I feel like if anything, they've rescued me."
Sathers started the paperwork to adopt from Haiti last January. On Aug. 17, she received the referral — boy-girl twins.
She made three trips to Haiti to visit her children, the last one over New Year's Day. The quake hit Jan. 12, killing at least 150,000 people. Sathers, back home in her northern Minneapolis suburb, didn't know if her children were alive or dead.
The answer came in a phone call from a stranger — Rob Kramer, chairman and co-founder of Global Water Trust, which works to bring clean water to developing nations, and CEO of PopRule, an Internet technology company. Kramer had flown to Haiti after the quake and was helping legally process children who already had been adopted when he got an e-mail from a friend of Sathers' who told him about the twins.
Kramer was in a car leaving an orphanage when he received the e-mail. He asked the driver to stop in the middle of traffic and went to the van behind him to talk to Lucy Armistead, the founder and head of Kentucky Adoption Services. Armistead had just been at the same orphanage, picking up children eligible to be adopted out of the country.
Kramer said he asked Armistead if she knew "the boy and girl twins, Schneider and Schneidine" — Ross and Alyse's Haitian names — and explained the story. Armistead figured the twins were back at the orphanage. Still, she and her co-worker looked around the van, which was carrying about nine children, and found the twins in the back seat.
"I said, `You've got to be kidding me,"' Kramer recalls. "I said, `Let's just dash to the (U.S.) Embassy."'
Ross and Alyse had survived the quake along with the 45 or so other children at the orphanage. The building in the Port-au-Prince suburb of Carrefour, at the epicenter of the quake, was destroyed, and the children were sleeping in tents and under tarps on a concrete slab across the street.
By Jan. 22, Kramer was on a private jet to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with the twins. Sathers and her mother rushed to get on a flight to pick up her children.
The twins arrived a little dehydrated and, at 22 pounds each, a bit underweight, Sathers said. But she said the children are gaining weight and taking to American food.
Sathers, a consultant who plans to take a year's leave to be home with the twins, said she hopes people will continue to support Haitians through prayer and donations or volunteer work for relief organizations.
"It's a happy ending for my family, but there's still so much devastation there. There's so many other kids that it's not a happy ending there."