- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Half-buried in rubble, Bazelais Suy struggled to breathe _ a dead woman lay on his chest. He knew he had to get her off, fast. Because he could still move his arms, he somehow managed to remove his belt, loop it around the woman’s own belt and drag her off. But his legs were still pinned.

In the ruins of a flattened, five-story university building, he was surrounded by survivors and corpses _ students crushed in Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake.

Suy, leader of an activist group working to help Haiti’s youth lift their homeland out of poverty, was climbing the stairs to a fifth-floor classroom when the building at the University of Port-Au-Prince began to shake. In seconds, the structure collapsed, and the 28-year-old Suy tumbled four floors below.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ With the aid of American supporters, a young man rescued from the rubble of Haiti’s earthquake struggled to walk again _ and to help his nation rebuild. An Associated Press reporter witnessed his long recovery and accompanied him on his return home.

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He landed flat on his back on the ground, half-buried in broken concrete. The impact crushed his spine.

Suy lay dazed on his back in a small, dark hole. For hours, he heard the cries of people who had been buried alive, and he feared an aftershock would silence them all.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to die,’” he said. “I told them not to be scared.”

Suy did not die. Instead, he embarked on a nearly 2,000-mile journey that would restore his health and allow him to return, a half-year later, to the ground that almost killed him.

Suy’s odyssey reads like a cliched Hollywood movie, but it’s a real-life drama, starring a serious and charismatic young Haitian who owes his life to strangers from Chicago, now friends. They transported him to another world for six months of intense treatment, free of charge, while his country, too, tried to heal.

Suy was given little chance of ever walking again, but Haiti without legs is unimaginable _ the able-bodied have a hard enough time getting by. Disability there is a stigma, a source of shame.

Stubborn and determined, Suy set his mind to beating the odds.

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In the dark, Suy (Soo-‘EE) drifted in and out of consciousness. He does not remember being pulled out and placed among bodies on the sidewalk.

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