In Miami's Little Haiti, frustration and fear mount among kin of quake victims
Sunday, January 17, 2010
MIAMI -- In this city's Little Haiti, anxious text messages relay the news.
From under the earthquake's rubble, a relative punches into a cellphone: "I'm trapped." Survivors running out of water plead for someone to help. Often the messages are just inquiries: Has anyone heard from this friend, that family member?
The earthquake in Haiti has dismayed television viewers across the United States. But many people here are unnerved not just by their closeness to the site of the disaster but also by the difficulty of responding before it's too late. Bottlenecks have kept many supplies and rescuers from getting to Haiti and, more personally, prevented Haitian Americans from answering requests from stricken relatives.
In a demonstration of concern, Vice President Biden made two stops in Little Haiti on Saturday, promising government and church leaders that help was on the way for the residents of Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.
"On behalf of the administration, our hearts ache for you," Biden told about 30 officials gathered Saturday morning at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.
Marie Etienne, a nursing professor at Miami Dade College, attended one meeting. She has been frustrated because a group of hundreds of Haitian American nurses that she organized has been unable to reach the island.
"It's heartbreaking," she said. "We see things on TV, and we feel powerless."
The sense of danger that comes with each passing hour is acute. Over the past few days, this is what Rasha Cameau, 40, the manager of a Haitian cultural center here, has learned via text messages from her sister:
Her elderly parents, their house flattened, have no food.
Her cousin, who had sent the text message alerting people that he was buried in the rubble, died before he could be rescued.
Her uncle is dead, too.
"I keep telling my parents that help is coming so they won't lose hope," she said, tearing up.