EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 15, 2010

As shock subsides, local immigrants ask, 'Why Haiti?'

The telephone call lasted only a few minutes, but it was just enough to ease Winnedia Dallemand's mind.

"I kept trying and trying and trying and praying, 'God give me a chance to contact them,'" said Dallemand, who moved from Haiti in 2007.

Dallemand, 24, was desperate to talk to her aunt, cousin and several friends since Tuesday when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the island country. The American Red Cross estimates that 50,000 are dead and one-third of the country's 9 million people are in need of aid.

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere saw everything from shantytowns to its nation's palace and cathedral collapse under the rage of the violent earthquake and the dozens of aftershocks that followed, some with magnitudes of 5.0. It took out phone and electrical lines, leaving many of the 5,000 Haitians in the Merrimack Valley with only the media to give them any news. Some were able to get through in the last day using cell phones, e-mail, Facebook pages, and text and instant messages.

Dallemand finally reached her cousin on the cell phone before 3 p.m. yesterday. Her family was alive, but their home was destroyed.

"They feel so down because they have nothing," Dallemand said. "There's no food, no water and everybody is living on the streets. They can't find a place to live and the streets don't smell good because a lot of people have died."

Their conversation ended when the telephone line went dead.

Tes Mercedat, 29, also was able to get word yesterday that his brother, sister-in-law and 6-month-old nephew are alive.

"It made me feel good, but what I'm most concerned about is what is going to happen next, what can we do?" said Mercedat, who moved to Massachusetts from Haiti in 1993.

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