EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 22, 2007

One year after adoption from Lebanon, child is thriving

Jill Harmacinski

SALEM, N.H. — When Laura Gabriel pulls out her suitcase and lays it on the floor to pack, she knows exactly what her 19-month-old son, Logan, will do.

“He gets in and pulls a blanket over him,” she said.

In Lebanon, where Laura traveled to adopt Logan, there was no crib in their hotel room. She believes Logan remembers the flipped-open suitcase she fashioned into a crib for him by filling it with soft bedding — the first bed he would sleep in as a member of his new family, the Gabriels.

It’s been a year since Logan arrived in the United States after a nail-biting trip home that captured the hearts and prayers of the entire country.

Laura was stuck in Beirut with Logan, who didn’t have a passport, when gunfire and bombing broke out last summer. Countless phone calls and news articles later, mother and son arrived home safely.

Today, Logan and his adopted family continue to enjoy a sort of celebrity status. His parents have received calls from people all over the country, and even Canada, who want to adopt Lebanese children.

Many people who followed media reports of the family’s struggle to leave Lebanon quickly recognize Logan’s thick crop of dark, curly hair and the wide smile through which he now flashes new, white teeth.

On a recent day at his North Salem home, Logan wore a navy blue sunsuit emblazoned with an American flag and blue Skechers sandals.

He eagerly snacked on kibbee, tabouli, hummus and Syrian bread. And he impressed visitors by blowing kisses.

His parents beam with pride as Logan does “Happy Feet,” dancing outside the door to his bedroom.

“He is such a ham,” said Laura, 32. “I know I’m going to get calls from the principal because he’ll be the class clown.”

Scot Gabriel, 37, said he will never forget the evening of July 25, 2006, when his wife and son finally arrived home at the airport for which the boy is named — Logan International in Boston.

Hundreds of family members and friends, along with a gaggle of reporters and cameramen, awaited them.

The couple initially went to Lebanon, from where Scot Gabriel’s family hails, in May 2006 to start the adoption process. Scot returned home several weeks later to work, while Laura, a special education teacher at Tenney Elementary School in Methuen, stayed behind to finalize adoption papers.

For three months, she lived in that Beirut hotel room with Logan. Her mother, Susan Collins, stayed with her. Her father-in-law, Kenneth Gabriel, was in an adjoining room.

Then on July 13, Israeli bombs began to fall on Beirut. The attack was in response to military hostages taken by Hezbollah, a militant Islamic group based in Lebanon.

Logan and Laura were stranded. The infant didn’t have a passport, making it impossible for him to get out of the country. And Laura wasn’t going anywhere without him.

She was a mom on a mission, she says now, focused only on getting the family home.

“I just tried to get through whatever came next. And that just made everything less overwhelming. I said to myself, ‘OK, they are shelling. We need to get to the bomb shelter,’” she recalled.

Back at home, Scot and his family were working the phones, talking nonstop with politicians and the press. Logan was eventually granted humanitarian parole and allowed to leave Lebanon. But the trip home wasn’t simple, either.

The family flew in a military helicopter, boarded a Navy warship and another military plane before arriving in Pennsylvania. They drove to Newark, N.J., then finally flew into Boston.

Logan took the entire trip in stride, Laura said.

“When he needed to sleep, he would sleep. When we needed him to eat, he would eat. He just goes with the flow,” she said.

Once Logan was at home and sleeping in a real crib, his laid-back disposition continued to amaze his parents.

The night he arrived, they put him to bed at 7 p.m. He’s gone to bed at nearly the same time every night since.

Scot and Laura said they wrote 400 thank-you notes, many to friends and especially Scot’s extended family in Southern New Hampshire and the Merrimack Valley, after the baby came home. The offices of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and former Congressman Martin Meehan, D-Mass., also were instrumental in getting Logan the clearance he needed to come into the United States.

“Their constituent services are just excellent,” Laura said.

At 19 months, Logan loves to swim, listen to music and dance. He’ll eat just about anything, but seems to prefer a Mediterranean diet of fruits and vegetables.

Scot believes his son’s personality has a Lebanese flair: warm, outgoing and loving, he said.

Still, he seems to have learned from the danger in which he once lived.

“He’s amazingly aware of his limits,” Laura said. “We’ve had to do nothing as far as child-proofing.”

The couple feels blessed and talks all the time about adopting another Lebanese orphan, they said.

“We tell him all the time, ‘We are so happy he adopted us,’” Scot said.

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Staff reporter Jill Harmacinski can be reached at (978) 946-2209 or by e-mail at JHarmacinski@eagletribune.com.