EDISON, New Jersey, U.S.A. — When Rayna Allonce, a high school junior in Pennsylvania, saw on television the way a powerful earthquake had crumbled buildings in her native Haiti, she “didn’t think there would be much hope” for family members living in the Caribbean nation.
“I was filled with disbelief that something like this could happen to my country, my family. I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Wana St. Fleur in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, one of Rayna Allonce’s aunts, at Allonce’s grandparents house.three years ago.
At least two cousins died beneath the rumble, Allonce said, but some other members of her family are alive.
Allonce, who attends Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Penn., said she was home on January 12 “trying to come up with an idea as to what I should paint for an English project” when her mother phoned her.
“Turn on the TV. Now!” her mother said.
When Rayna turned to CNN, she learned the devastation her country suffered. Most of her family members live in Port-au-Prince, the capital.
“This was a few hours after the earthquake and there weren’t really any pictures and such yet, but they talked of the probable devastation and all I could think about was how I had a lot of family members living in Port-au-Prince,” Allonce said.
“One of my aunts has two small children of two and four and lives in a two-story house made of stone,” she said. “At the time that the earthquake had occurred, she wouldn’t have even been home yet. The children would have been with a servant, whose first instincts would have been to save herself, not the kids.”
She said she had a great aunt who “lives in a three-story house built into the mountainside.”
“I was filled with disbelief that something like this could happen to my country, my family. I just couldn’t believe it. The fear and other various emotions set in after it sunk in that this really was happening,” Allonce said.
Her parents spent the next two days trying to reach their relatives.
“Right now we have confirmation that two of my aunts are ok. My aunt’s children are okay,” Allonce said.
“My great-aunt’s house had completely collapsed with her and her son inside but they managed to get out through a window on the third floor, although she is heavily wounded,” Allonce said.
Other family members are unaccounted for.
“The rest we haven’t heard from,” Allonce said. “It took days to get just the information we have right now.”
Allonce said her family is grateful that so many relatives survived when “there was little hope.”
She said he is worried about those who haven’t yet been heard from and concerned about “the thousands who are hurt and need help won’t be able to get help until it’s too late.”
“In general, I’m worried about how Haiti will get past this great catastrophe,” Allonce said.
Allonce said she is grateful for the international response to the catastrophe and how quickly the other foreign nations have united to provide assistance to Haiti in its time of need.
“Without that crucial help the situation of the people of Port-au-Prince would have been a lot worse,” she said.
“Haiti just doesn’t have the materials, I feel, to have been able to deal with this adequately on their own. But in unity there is strength,” Allonce said.
Gokce Yurekli is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.