LAWRENCE — When the telephone in her home rings, Marie Dallemand jumps in fear. More than a week after an earthquake devastated her native Haiti, Dallemand's sister and niece still are missing.
She learned Sunday that two cousins were killed when the two-story building they lived in collapsed, trapping them under rubble.
"They didn't have time to run," said Dallemand, 45, wiping away tears.
Dallemand is one of eight Haitian immigrants employed at MI Nursing and Restorative Center on Bennington Street, who have 28 members of their extended families directly impacted by the earthquake.
Of the 28 people, five are confirmed dead, 17 have been rescued but may be injured, and six are missing.
Leane Hyppolit's sister lost her mother-in-law and several cousins.
"Even if you don't have a close relative, it still affects you because it's your country," said Hyppolit, a certified nursing assistant at the nursing home.
When the earthquake first happened, Hyppolit said she was glued to the television.
"I couldn't do anything. Then I thought it was better for me to go to work. I can't watch it anymore because I see with my own eyes what is happening and it bothers me."
Hyppolit is now praying for her countrymen and collecting canned goods and other items to send through her church.
"All you can do now is keep praying," said Hyppolit, a member of the Haitian Church of God on Haverhill Street.
The Haitian government has estimated the death toll at 200,000. It said 250,000 people were injured and 2 million are homeless in the nation of 9 million.
U.S. troops have begun patrolling the capital of Port-au-Prince, where there is sporadic looting and violence.
Meanwhile, Marie Dallemand talked about how her hope turned to agony when her daughter, Winnedia, 24, talked to relatives by cell phone in Haiti on Sunday, who told them about the deaths of her cousins.
"Today, I feel so sick to my stomach," said Marie Dallemand, who moved to Lawrence in 1983. "I can't sleep. When I try to eat, my stomach can't take it."
Last night, Marie Dallemand sat in front of three flickering white candles on a white plate in the living room of her Tower Hill home.
"In my country, when we have a problem, we light the candles and pray so God can help us," she said.
The three candles represent the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
"I pray for everybody to be safe because we don't know what's going to happen, and there are some family members we won't see again," said Dallemand, a member of St. Mary of the Assumption Church.
Unlike her daughter, Marie Dallemand still watches the news on television.
"I keep looking to see if I can recognize someone I know, especially my sister," she said.
Winnedia Dallemand is the opposite.
"When I watch TV, I get sick because I hear people saying, 'Help me,' 'I'm here' and people can't reach them," said Winnedia Dallemand, who was in Haiti over Christmas vacation.
"I get a headache right here," she said holding her temples with her fingers. "And my heart beats so, so fast."
The last time Winnedia Dallemand spoke to her cousins, who are now living on the streets, was Wednesday night.
In addition to praying and trying to keep a normal routine by attending English classes at the Adult Learning Center, Winnedia Dallemand is keeping a diary to help her cope.
"God gives me hope," she said.
Her mother agrees, although she is heartbroken that her family members cannot get a proper burial.
"They're burying them like garbage," she said. "They are burning tires on top of the bodies so they don't smell. It makes me sick to my stomach."
Marie Dallemand said the Haitian belief that a deceased spirit looms over where they died gives her comfort.
Another MI employee, Alex Louis, is trying to remain optimistic, even though it has been more than a week since the earthquake hit. Still, he said he won't grieve until he receives official word.
The Rev. Jean Joseph, pastor of the Haitian Church of God, said there is an estimated 5,000 Haitian immigrants living in Greater Lawrence.
Joseph, who still has his father, a brother and a sister in Haiti, said most Haitians in the area work in the nursing and home care fields.
Marie Dallemand says working with several of her countrymen helps them support each other during these grim times.
Meanwhile, Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services, which runs the nursing home, has set up a fund to help MI staff members.
"While we don't know what the future will hold for these families, we can expect that many will incur significant financial expenses in the days ahead," Barbara Grant, MIHCS president and CEO, said in a statement. "Some may need travel funds, or have unexpected medical bills in caring for their loved ones. We may also be able to provide clothing or supplies directly for these families in Haiti."
"Once we are sure that we have met the needs of our staff members and their families, we will donate any remaining monies to a major general relief organization earmarked for the victims of this earthquake," Grant said.
For those who would like to contribute, checks also may be mailed to the attention of Patricia Salach, Mary Immaculate Health/Care Services, 172 Lawrence St., Lawrence, MA 01841. Please earmark your gift "Donate Haiti."