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‘Tragedy on top of tragedy’

ONECO — The phone rang at the Blue Ribbon Chicken restaurant and Lousette Joseph rose quickly to answer it.

Her father looked up from his table.

Was it more word about friends or relations in Haiti?

No.

Louines Joseph, 55, closed his eyes and put clenched fists to his forehead.

Three days after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of his and wife Danielle’s native country, waiting for any news at the family’s diner on U.S. 301 Boulevard East has been anguish.

“You have to come to work, but our mind is there,” said Joseph, who left Haiti 30 years ago. “Thank God, this morning I received a call from people, my immediate family. Some are injured. Some of their houses are destroyed. Their neighbors, people I know, did not survive.

“But my wife’s side of the family, we hear nothing.”

Joseph feels helpless.

“A friend’s daughter in California called me, crying. Have you heard anything about my mother? I can’t give her anything,” he said.

Rather, the Josephs have heard from family members and friends urgently wanting more information.

A son in the Navy overseas.

Another in Orlando.

Countrymen in Miami. Bradenton, too.

What can we do? they ask.

“That’s the thing. I don’t know.” Joseph said. “You keep praying. It’s a tragedy. A tragedy on top of tragedy.”

One they can’t stomach watching unfold on TV any longer.

No more CNN. No more MSNBC.

“You get so upset,” he said.

His daughter, too.

“I’m not a crybaby, but the other night I was bawling,” said Lousette Joseph, 33. “My sister called, crying, from Tallahassee. I told her to quit watching the news, just pray. There’s nothing we can do from here but pray, offer our hopes, our good intentions for those who are hurt, those who didn’t survive.”

Her father feels their pain.

Louines Joseph may have left Haiti three decades ago, but he has never forgotten it and visits often.

“So many of (his children) don’t know Haiti, but we talk about it all the time,” he said. “Where I come from, life was good, fun. You leave to create another family, but you always keep in touch. What you make here, you send a little bit there, make life easier.”

Joseph paused, rubbed his eyes.

“It’s going to be a miracle for them to survive,” he said.

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