Betsy Sathers' children fussed in their cribs from the moment they came into her life. Two-year-old twins Ross and Alyse hadn't experienced many restful nights living in a Haiti orphanage and surviving the devastating earthquake there. They were too young to verbalize their stress.
"I can't understand everything they've been through," Sathers said as the children, now 4 1/2, rolled balls of Play-Doh on their dining room table in Blaine last week. "I can just be there for them."
After losing her husband in the bridge collapse, though, she understands the toll that trauma can take.
Betsy and Scott Sathers had plans for a family, but that dream vanished five years ago.
"I knew I may or may not ever be married again. I was OK with that, but gosh I didn't really want to give up being a mom," she said.
She prayed about it for months and decided to adopt. An agency quickly matched her with adorable twins from Haiti.
Sathers, still struggling with her own grief, visited the children three times while she waited for officials in two countries to process paperwork so she could bring them home. She celebrated the twins' second birthday on her last visit.
But soon, Sathers got a telephone call that was eerily similar to the one she received on Aug. 1, 2007: Turn on the TV, the caller said, there's been a disaster. This time, it was an earthquake 2,000 miles away, where her children lived.
Memories of the bridge collapse came rushing back.
"All of a sudden people started arriving at my door again. My mom stayed over with me," she said.
Days later, she learned the children were safe, and she started lobbying government officials to get them out of Haiti. The two countries agreed on a policy to speed adoptions already in progress, and Sathers scrambled to Florida to greet her scared and tired children, who came on a midnight flight full of missionary workers.
Sathers, 36, would give anything to have her husband back, but the loss prepared her to be a more patient, caring parent to the twins, she said.
"Children don't come out of situations like that without some challenges," she said. "When I lost Scott ... I was able to say, 'I'm really sad I lost my husband.' My kids came home, and they didn't have those words ... all they can do is throw toys."
Both disasters have taught her to embrace the happy moments.
"This Fourth of July we were with Scott's parents. ... He should still be here, but at the same time, I just cherish and treasure those little moments of seeing the joy and the laughter on a kid's face."