He didn't think he would survive. But Tony Naimoli came home to Plainview from the Western Hemisphere's deadliest earthquake on record.

"There were no doctors, no medical help. There were people walking around bleeding," he said. "I passed streets where there were 20, 30, 40 bodies. They weren't even covered because it was so fresh, so new."

Naimoli, 53, a shipping company owner, was in Haiti on business when the capital of Port-au-Prince was leveled by Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

Buildings had tumbled to the ground all around him downtown. He and a colleague had been staying at a hotel whose collapse is believed to have buried scores of people alive. And yet, Naimoli made it back to New York late Friday night, and his battle to stay alive amid Haiti's dead and dying was over.

"It was frightening," said Naimoli, limping noticeably but smiling broadly after landing at Kennedy Airport. "I didn't think I would make it."

Tuesday, Naimoli and a colleague had just left a business meeting in downtown Port-au-Prince and had stopped for gas on their way back to the hotel.

"All of a sudden, the ground began shaking and the car felt like it was going to turn over," he said.

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He and the colleague got out of the car, fled to the middle of the street to avoid being hit by falling debris from buildings, and then tried to make their way to their hotel, The Montana, situated high on a hillside above downtown.

The difficult walk along the narrow, steep road was more arduous for Naimoli because he sprained his right ankle badly while scrambling through forest to get around obstructions in the road. Hunks of rock, shaken free by the quake, tumbled toward the pair as they climbed.

His limping ascent took more than two hours to complete. But real tragedy awaited him at The Montana, a five-story luxury hotel with views of the distant Caribbean.

It was in ruins.

He spent the night on the grass by the hotel's pool, wondering what would become of him.

 

Major earthquake hits Haiti

The hotel's guests included United Nations employees. Naimoli stayed close by them, and the next day UN consular officials escorted him and others to the U.S. Embassy.

He spent Wednesday night in a lobby in the U.S. compound, frequently shaken awake by the earthquake's aftershocks. The next day, he was flown to the Dominican Republic aboard a Coast Guard C-130 cargo plane.

The incident was the most harrowing of his life, Naimoli said, but he is determined to return to Haiti.

"Thank God I am here, but I'll be back in Haiti as soon as I can," he said. "They didn't want me to leave. They are desperate for help."