Family still fearful one year later

ncharles@MiamiHerald.comJanuary 11, 2011 

Almost one year after Haiti’s Jan. 12 earthquake forced Eudens Antoine and his family to pack and move to Miami, the 11-year old still has a pressing question: “Will the earth shake again?”

His parents, Veronique and Pierre Antoine, assured him that Jan. 12, 2011, he’ll be safe, but Eudens doesn’t want to take any chances.

“On the anniversary of the earthquake, I’m not going to school or staying inside the house,” he said. “Just in case.”

The Antoine family is one of many who fled quake-ravaged Haiti days after the catastrophe. Eudens, Tajmara, 10, and 1-year-old Steffi are all American citizens who were living in Haiti at the time of the quake.

“As a father, I knew I couldn’t stay in Haiti with the kids, it wasn’t stable,” Pierre Antoine said. “But as a patriot and a person who loves my country, it was a difficult decision to make.”

Antoine and his wife, Veronique, are in the United States on tourist visas, meaning they’re only allowed up to six month stays at a time. Since arriving in Miami on Jan. 18, they have taken turns returning to Haiti to comply with the immigration requirements.

“It’s not perfect, but we do not aspire to become illegal immigrants,” Veronique said.

Tajmara and Eudens are enrolled at St. Mary’s Catholic School, a Little Haiti private school where several other quake survivors attend.

Life in Miami is all about compromises and readjustments for the family, who lived comfortably in a three bedroom house in Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti before the earthquake.

Now, they find themselves thrust into a new life with no jobs, living in a crowded home with extended family and struggling to make sense of the future.

“We survived one year, can we survive another one like this?” asked Antoine, who said the family’s savings are almost gone.

At times, Tajmara and Eudens seek answers to questions their parents find difficult to answer.

“They want to know why don’t we have a car like when we were in Haiti, or why are we living in someone else’s home -- why can’t we have our own,” Veronique said.

To cope, the family turns to their faith.

“We pray for miracles every day,” Antoine said.

Antoine has considered moving his family back to Haiti, where he worked as a bank auditor. Veronique, also an accountant, ran the family’s food store before it was raided after the quake.

“Each time we say, ‘OK, let’s go back,’ something happens: cholera, a hurricane, political turmoil and protests,” Veronique said. “We cannot return with our children in those conditions.”

Eudens and his siblings also miss their grandmother and friends back in Haiti.

“Sometimes I’m sad,” said Eudens, who lost his best friend in the earthquake. “I don’t know how many of my friends are dead, but I do miss them.”

For Tajmara, the idea of returning to Haiti makes her sad. “If we go, we will die from cholera,” she said. “I’m scared to go back.”

In February, Veronique’s visa will near another six-month mark. She will return to Haiti. “This is a struggle,” she said. “We’re struggling for our kids.”

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