When Terry Pharaon learned of the earthquake that shook Haiti on Tuesday, his body went numb as he pictured his family in the country and feared for their lives.
Pharaon, a political science freshman and former Haitian resident of 10 years, frantically made phone calls to his family in Haiti when he heard the news. Pharaon said he had trouble sleeping until nearly 3 a.m. that night after the news broke.
“I couldn’t sleep; I couldn’t think,” Pharaon said. “I went to my economics class in the morning and couldn’t even comprehend what was being discussed.”
After finally getting in touch with his mother, Pharaon learned his father was safe. Despite the relief he felt when he learned of his father’s safety, Pharaon was shocked to learn Wednesday night that one of his close friends in Haiti died as a result of the earthquake.
“I sat there quiet, staring blankly, at a loss for words,” he said.
Pharaon is one of many people around the world concerned for friends and family after a 7.0 magnitutde earthquake hit Haiti at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Pharaon said he is emotionally struggling and has not yet recovered from the initial shock of the disaster.
“I feel out of my body, out of my mind,” he said. “Haiti is my second home. My family is there, my friends are there … I’d be buried there.”
To reach students such as Pharaon who might have been effected by the earthquake, the MSU Caribbean Students Association, or CSA, is organizing aid efforts and providing information about the current situation in Haiti.
Nicholas Kerr, CSA president and political science graduate student, said the organization is willing to help Haitian international students and students of Haitian descent looking to contact family members and friends who might have been in the earthquake’s path. Kerr said the CSA encourages students affected by the disaster to contact the organization for support.
“We’re looking to support Haitian students and also to raise awareness of the disaster to the rest of campus, allowing them to participate in the aid efforts as global citizens,” he said.
Board members of the CSA will meet today to determine a plan of action. Members already have initiated efforts to reach students and will answer questions at a display in the International Center’s Crossroads Food Court in the coming weeks.
“The board (also) is planning a huge event for the coming weeks with music and dance that will commemorate Haitian culture and help raise aid for those affected by the tragedy,” Kerr said.
Kerr said the group will collaborate with other student groups on campus. Although they might be far removed from the disaster, MSU students can help support Haitians, CSA member and African American and African studies graduate student Darcia Grant said.
“The Haitian people aren’t strangers to this kind of disaster, so they’ll persevere, but not without help from the international community,” Grant said.
Although he will be involved in relief efforts, Pharaon said the road ahead will not be easy.
“I’ll be down,” he said. “Not hearing from people is hard. All you can do is hope and pray.”