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Molly Hightower

Port Orchard, Washington, US


Friends of Orphans

1/12/2010, Haiti

Friends and family of Molly Hightower gathered Saturday in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher at the University of Portland to remember graduate Molly Hightower, killed in the earthquake in Haiti.

At nearby Nicola’s restaurant on North Lombard, where many of Hightower’s friends worked to earn school money, friend Alison Adams said of her, “she wanted to make a difference in the children’s lives in Haiti and that’s exactly what she did.”

Friends created a memorial at the doorway of the restaurant with photographs. They depict a going away party when Hightower left for Haiti, and other campus events.

“She was so selfless and loved everyone and everything about life,” Adams said, “It makes me want to be a better person. It makes me want to live by her example and just give myself to people.”

Hightower majored in psychology, sociology and French Studies, and studied in Paris in the summer of 2007. Her French teacher Trudy Booth described her Saturday as “brilliant and she was yet so very modest in spite of her high intelligence . . . Molly is the finest person I’ve ever known. It is an incredible tragedy that we are all touched by.”

Hightower was confirmed dead early Friday in Haiti. She was from Port Orchard, Wash. Hightower’s family followed her daily activity by reading a blog she wrote online.

Her dad, Mike Hightower told KGW that “Friends of Orphans,” the organization his daughter works for, was sending staff members to Haiti to evacuate volunteers. “She had a friend that was visiting that was on the 7th floor, Molly was on the 5th,” said Hightower.

That friend, Rachel Prusynski of Boise, Idaho, also graduated last May from the University of Portland. She was pulled from wreckage of the seven-story building on Tuesday and was transported to Florida, where she is recovering from injuries. Hightower did not survive the building’s collapse.

Rachel sent along this statement Saturday from the hospital:

“I wish so much that I could be with the UP community today to celebrate and remember Molly, not only because the UP family has the potential to be so comforting, but also because so much of my friendship with Molly took place on the Bluff. Living and serving with Molly allowed me to witness pieces of her that would never have been evident in a college environment. In Haiti, I was continuously astounded by her joy, compassion, and love for the children with special needs with whom she lived and worked. She knew every child by name and learned the Creole words necessary to play, comfort and love those kids before she learned the words for anything else

There are images from the tragedy that I will never forget, but they will be forever trumped by the joyous memories of our time together in Haiti. I will never understand why I was the one who made it out, but the news of Molly’s death was met with a resolve to never forget. I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting to deserve to be the one whose family does not despair today. If I can offer anything to Molly’s family, it is that I will carry her with me always.”


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