Image: Molly Hightower and a Haitian orphan
Courtesy of the Hightower family
Molly Hightower cuddles one of the orphans under her care in Haiti.
msnbc.com
updated 1/15/2010 12:46:14 PM ET 2010-01-15T17:46:14

The body of a 22-year-old American woman has been found in the rubble of the Haitian orphanage where she volunteered.

The family of Molly Hightower of Port Orchard, Wash., was told early Friday of searchers' grim discovery in the remains of the seven-story building where she lived and worked.

Since learning of the quake on Tuesday, Mike and Mary Hightower had been desperately searching for any information about their daughter , who went to Haiti in June to volunteer for Friends of the Orphans, a Chicago-based group with orphanages across the Americas.

Molly Hightower’s friend, Rachel Prusynski of Boise, was visiting her when the quake hit. She was found injured, but alive, after being on the top floor of the building. Two other volunteers on floors below Molly’s also survived.

“We talked to Rachel, she just described the building shaking, running for the door and the building collapsing,” Mike Hightower said.

The family learned Thursday afternoon that members of a search-and-rescue team from Fairfax County, Va., were combing over the rubble.

In additon to her parents, Molly is survived by three siblings, Jordan, 24, Zach, 20 and Sean, 18.

Mixed emotions
Molly Hightower only recently returned from Haiti to Port Orchard, Wash., for a short visit before the Christmas holidays. In her blog, 525,600 minutes, a journal of her time in Haiti, she wrote about coming home to her family, catching up with friends and eating fast-food. But her trip home was short and she was back at the orphanage for Christmas, where she found excited children, the mixed emotions of being away from her own family and the challenge of the job at hand.

Her father said Molly’s goal — and one of the reasons she decided to volunteer in Haiti — was to work in international adoption. She graduated from the University of Portland in 2009, where one of her majors was French. While in Port Orchard, she took the GRE with the goal of going to graduate school to study sociology or psychology when she returned from Haiti over the summer.

“I spend almost everyday with the abandoned babies in the hospital, and it’s difficult to comprehend why and who would ever give them up,” she wrote.

Msnbc.com's Sylvia Wood and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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