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Sound of mom’s voice brings hope out of chaos

Ismerine Civil’s voice was weak and sounded like she’d been crying for days.

“You could hear the sadness,” Cristine Civil said.

Yet it was still a sublime moment for the 2005 Bradenton Christian School grad.

Her mother was alive in Haiti.

So was her brother, Wilkinson, and grandmother, Jasmine.

“I cried from happiness,” said the 24-year-old. “A big burden was lifted from my shoulders.”

Since the Jan. 12 earthquake, Civil had been calling from Naval Station Norfolk in Hampton Roads, Va., where she is an aviation electricians mate.

She finally made contact early this past Wednesday.

As fate would have it, a second earthquake cut the call short.

So she called back later and reached mom again.

Civil was born in Tampa, but her father died when she was 3 and her mother eventually returned to Haiti.

The last time they saw one another was for Civil’s 19th birthday.

“It’s been crazy,” she said. “So much death. So many people in need. I fear for her. I want to get her out of there.”

So does Civil’s twin sister, Crician Gillis, one of five siblings.

Gillis was elated by Wednesday’s news, but it was tempered knowing their mother’s situation.

“I haven’t been eating or sleeping right since the earthquake. I didn’t want to think — did she die?” said the married mother of three and Manatee school district bus monitor.

“It makes me feel better to know she’s alive, but when I heard about that second earthquake, I said, ‘My God, we’ve got to get her out of there before something else happens.’ ”

Bradenton’s Ed and Joanne Dick were also glad Cristine Civil had reached her mother.

They’re Civil’s adoptive parents, yet it didn’t lessen their joy.

“Most of our adopted children do not want to find their biological parents,” said Ed, a devout man who has fostered almost 300 children and adults over the years. “We hurt for Cristine — we hurt for anybody in Port-au-Prince — and we were on pins and needles for a week hoping to get word. We were delighted for her.

“Your biological mother always has that pull.”

Indeed, Cristine Civil wanted to catch the first flight out of Norfolk after the earthquake. Her outfit (Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15) is involved in the Haiti relief effort.

Instead, Civil remains on base, working on MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters while awaiting orders to go.

She’s ready.

“It could be tomorrow: ‘Pack up. You’re going,’ ” she said. “I’ve got a seabag in my trunk full of things I’ll need for the next two months. I want to be there soon. It’s been tough with everything going on.”

Her duty will still be flight maintenance in Haiti, but she plans to see her mother.

Civil has already started the paperwork to get her to Norfolk. Her brother and grandmother may take awhile.

“This woman brought me into the world. She didn’t have the means to take care of me, but I was blessed to have someone else fill in,” Civil said. “I know they love me just the same, and for that I love them.

“They all have a place in my heart.”

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee Count. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at Please include a phone number for verification purposes.