N.Y. search team fails to find girl in home damaged by Haiti earthquake

Thursday, January 21, 2010; A15

There was a rumor, then a feeling, then something like a hopeful certainty surrounding the fate of the child inside the home on Muller Street.

Was 2-year-old Anne Christienne alive amid the crushed masonry and bent tin? Could she possibly be?

The New York City search and rescue team arrived in a line of vehicles at 9 a.m., quickly unloading bolt cutters, a stretcher and a German shepherd trained to smell the living rather than the dead.

New York-accented voices crackled over two-way radios as Lt. Tom Donnelly's crew, many of them veterans of the World Trade Center collapse, made their way into the ruins in search of little Anne.

The men worked along the home's treacherous second story, cutting through iron bars over the windows and disappearing inside.

Search and rescue scenes have become street theater in the earthquake's aftermath, with Haitians swarming to get a look at each one. Across the ruined capital, there have been Hollywood endings, but more often there are tragedies.

As onlookers gathered along Muller Street, the crew shushed them, straining to hear a slight cry that might give away Anne's position. Nothing. A dog howled. A half-hour passed.

"Steve, start loading everything up," came the voice over the two-way.

One of the senior officers made his way toward a woman sitting on the hood of a white Toyota, her hands holding her face.

"We tried. Can you tell her we tried?" the officer told his Creole translator. "We searched with cameras. We searched with dogs. There's nothing else we can do right now."

The woman listened, then broke into deep sobs.

"Tell them I'm sorry," the officer said. "Make sure to say I'm sorry."

-- Scott Wilson in Port-au-Prince

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