Birth certificate lost in volcano aftermath is found
The long missing birth certificate of Medford resident Vanessa Driskell, who has spent the last four years trying to obtain the document to prove her U.S. citizenship, has finally been located.
It was found in a warehouse in Illinois where the U.S. Air Force had stored it and other documents after it evacuated Clark Air Base in the Philippines when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines on June 15, 1991. Driskell was born on the base where her father was stationed at the time.
Finding the document means that Driskell, 21, can now obtain a driver's license, cash a check without a hassle and apply for a passport so she can live her dream of traveling abroad.
"It's going to be a very special Thanksgiving, the most special I have ever had," said the 2007 graduate of Rogue River High School.
"This makes me feel ecstatic — I'm very relieved," she said.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Or., said Tuesday morning that her certificate of a live birth was found in the warehouse where it had been stored by the U.S. Air Force.
"The paperwork she needs to put her life back together will be mailed to us this week — Vanessa should have it middle to end of next week," said Tom Towslee, Wyden's communications director in Oregon.
Since the Mail Tribune ran an article about Driskell's plight on Feb. 10, Wyden 's staff has been working with various agencies to try to find the missing document.
"The documents are coming to us from the National Archives in St. Louis," he said. "We had contacted them about this case. To their credit, they began an extensive search. They found it in a box in a warehouse in Illinois that was part of the base closure file."
Driskell was born on Sept. 9, 1989, on Clark Air Base in the Philippines to Kevin Driskell and Socorra Gonzalez, both U.S. citizens married to each other. Her father was a military police officer on the base.
When the volcano erupted in the late spring of 1991, it killed 800 people and left an estimated 100,000 homeless. The 18,000 U.S. military personnel and their families at the base were transported to the U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay. Most, including her parents, would return to the states.
Vanessa Driskell said her citizenship was never an issue until she turned 16 and wanted to get her driver's license, a process she hadn't been able to complete, but is now looking forward to.
— Paul Fattig