Waiting for some news of loved ones is difficult

Claudia Adrien lives in Gainesville. She is a 2009 graduate of the University of Florida and writes for The Sun.


Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:32 p.m.

There is no medical, military or other organization equipped to handle the nightmare that this earthquake has caused for most of the people in Port-au-Prince and beyond. They already were living under unhealthy, crowded conditions.

I lived in Haiti as a child and my visits during the past decade showed a country that was rapidly deteriorating. One image that haunts me is that of children who resort to eating dirt patties.

As for my family, we are not so unlucky. We are among the few Haitians who had access to food, safe drinking water, housing, education and travel. Our "normal" was not the everyday circumstances of more than 80 percent of the country.

Until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

My father, a Haitian citizen, was a self-employed translator whom I last heard was working for the United Nations. He may be trapped beneath one of those fallen government buildings. If he was not at work, there's hope he was heading to a home in the neighborhood Montjoli Turgeau, though it is one of the worst damaged areas in the city.

No personal phone numbers work for him, and I have called various hot lines. An operator for the U.N. took my name and contact information, though I have heard nothing in 24 hours, nor had the operator himself, who said he tried to reach via e-mail 20 U.N. staffers with only one response.

I am no different than thousands of Haitian-Americans, hovering over computers and clinging to cell phones waiting for something.

Learning of the worst, at least I think, is better than knowing nothing.

The only quick communication now is social networking sites. These made it possible for me to learn, a day after the quake, that my cousin Stanley had jumped off the second floor of a building, injuring his foot, so he wouldn't be crushed under several stories of falling debris. Stanley wrote online that his father, my Uncle Carl, is OK - whatever OK means now.

My cousin is now searching for friends. One was found and pulled from under the rubble but died from a lack of medical attention.

I know all of this because relatives and friends are using social networking sites to post messages about people buried under buildings. One Facebook site, "Official People Trapped in Haiti Location List," has helped rescue or identify the bodies of people crushed underneath homes or businesses. Postings read of those pleading to strangers who are alive and uninjured in Haiti to look for family members at specific addresses. But the sad reality is that few Haitians have the ability to be online, possessing some ability to act. Hope is a waiting game for Haitian-Americans whose families in Port-au-Prince do not have access to these tools.

It's a sad reminder that class, even in disaster, can make a small difference.

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