Two and a half years after the disastrous magnitude-7.0, I look back at the story of Haitian-native, Antoine Joseph. Joseph was a member of the Union University basketball team and this is a excerpt from a piece I did on his thoughts and reactions a month after the catastrophe.
February 17, 2010
Haiti destroyed, Joseph stays strong
On Jan. 12, Joseph began his day like most others and was oblivious to the developing crisis that would change his life. He and fellow Port-au-Prince native Samuel Danache, an accounting major, stayed after practice to get extra shooting practice when they received the terrible news. As senior guard Alan North told the two Haitians about the earthquake, Joseph remembers not understanding the seriousness of the disaster.
“Even after he [North] told me it was a magnitude of 7.0, I was still calm because I didn’t think it had hit Port-au-Prince. Most earthquakes in Haiti hit a town called Gonaïves,” Joseph said.
After watching the news reports, they learned the earthquake had rattled their hometown and sent their society into chaos.
Joseph began feeling the way many Union students felt on Feb. 5, 2008, as they saw the destruction of the EF-4 tornado that hit campus. The feeling is the fear of the unknown.
“All the systems were down. I tried to call my mom and my sister several times but I heard nothing. I began to freak out because on the news I saw people were hurt really bad. I haven’t watched TV since,” he said.
Denache received word from family members the evening after the earthquake, but Joseph’s fear only increased day-by-day. Family members in Philadelphia informed Joseph they had heard from some of his family in Haiti but had received no word from his mother, Rosemane Joseph, or his sister, Rosalie Robin, 15.
Without any word from his mother or sister, Joseph had to continue with his daily life with nothing more than prayer.
“After not hearing anything about my mom and sister, all I could do was pray…and hope they were safe,” he said.
During the following week, Joseph continued with basketball practice and found encouragement through his teammates and coaches. Before playing against conference rival Freed-Hardeman, Niven encouraged him to “play for Haiti” and Joseph represented his country well with 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.
After a week of no news from his family, Joseph finally heard from his mother and sister who were unharmed in the earthquake. However, he was informed Petionville, Joseph’s neighborhood, was badly damaged. According to his mother, his home and school were destroyed and his church was severely damaged.
Joseph received even more bad news when he learned a cousin and several of his friends had died in the earthquake.
“When you hear about someone you know has died, its tough,” Joseph said. “You start thinking about the last things you said to the person…it makes me cry.”
Although faced with the tough circumstances Joseph has found hope and purpose from a higher calling.
“You live and you die and you should thank God for the days you are still on this earth,” Joseph said. “I know God always has a purpose and you never know what’s going to happen. I could have been in Haiti and died, but I didn’t and all I can do is pray for those I love.”
Joseph summarized his feelings about his fate and God’s grace.
“God knows what he’s doing,” he said. “He brought me here two years ago and knew about the earthquake then. Me and Sam are here for a reason and I thank God we are.”