Knoxville mother mourns death of Haitian orphan

Knoxville mother mourns death of Haitian orphan

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Lorie Johnson and Atanie Lorie Johnson and Atanie

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The earthquake tragedy in Haiti is hitting close to home for some people in East Tennessee.

"For two years, I've just sponsored her and loved her and cared for her just like she was my own," says Lorie Johnson, a Knoxville mother of two and White Stone Church member.

In fact, Johnson had hoped to adopt four-year-old Atanie, one of the girls at the Haitian orphanage her church supports.

"I first met her in May of 2008. She was very sick. She was two-years-old. When I got to the orphanage, she was badly malnourished and full of intestinal worms and so for a whole week, I just took care of her," she says.

Johnson had been back to visit Atanie five times since then. 

"I couldn't stand the thought of her not having a mama down there rocking her to sleep or caring about her," Johnson says.

She and seven other White Stone Church members returned from their latest trip the day before the earthquake hit. It destroyed the orphanage and killed little Atanie.

"She was in the stairwell. The front stairwell had collapsed on top of her as she was trying to get out," Johnson explains through tears.

As Johnson works through her pain, with the help of her congregation, she knows the need in Haiti is even greater than before.

"The girls at the orphanage are now without a home tonight and the few things that they did have, now they have nothing once again," she says. "My mission now is for her death not to be in vain, but for me to keep pushing forward for everybody else."

Five other families from North Knoxville's White Stone Church had already started the process to adopt children from Haiti.

While everyone else made it out of the orphanage alive, one of the little girls set to be adopted was in Port-au-Prince at the time of the quake and is now missing.

White Stone Church is now trying to raise money to rebuild the orphanage, and find monthly sponsors for remaining orphans.

For more information on how you can help, contact the church at 865-687-4223 or visit their Web site at http://www.whitestonechurch.org/

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