Local Haitians still searching for loved ones

Published 3:47 pm Monday, January 18, 2010

Maryse and Walkin Pierre-Louis are a long way from their native home of Haiti, but like many American-born citizens in the county, the Hoover residents have been heavily affected by the recent earthquake in the Caribbean nation.

Maryse and Walkin, who moved from Haiti in the 1970s and are currently members of the Pelham congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, have been looking for friends and relatives since the earthquake struck.

Fortunately for Maryse, she has already made contact with her sister, Nicole, who left Miami in December to visit her children and grandchildren in Haiti.

When Maryse first heard of the devastation, she hoped for the best, but feared for the worst.

“I was thinking maybe it was not that bad,” said Maryse. “It was shocking to me and I kept thinking it’s a dream, it’s not real.”

Maryse received word from her nephew on Jan. 15 that Nicole was OK, and then she actually got to speak to her on a cell phone on Jan. 16.

While Nicole is approximately an hour away from Port-au-Prince and things there are not as bad as what is being televised, she said it is still a dire situation.

“When we talked Saturday morning, there had been an aftershock that caused a neighbor’s house to collapse,” said Maryse.

The owners of the home and their family had been sleeping outside because of structural damage to the home, but decided to sleep indoors after days outside.

“They went back in and the house fell in on them during the aftershock and killed them all,” Maryse said. “The devastation is so great and they are still paying for it.”

That aftershock also collapsed the community’s main church, as well as other homes and buildings in the area.

And while she did get the good news of her sister’s well being, Maryse and Walnick have not heard from several cousins and good friends they grew up with.

Maryse said it might be a long time before she knows if any of them survived.