Stranded mother speaks
Mother to three Naples children
PORT-AU-PRINCE — She did not want to die without her family.
A tear ran from the right eye of Marie Paulone Christophe, 48, on Thursday afternoon as she described her worst fear during the earthquake that has upended her life.
She sat near a pile of blankets and bed pillows next to the street, where she sleeps — and prays — every night.
“There is nothing to do,” Christophe said. “I’m waiting until something changes.”
Christophe worries she will be completely alone here. Her heart is in Naples.
Her children, Marc, Carl and Marie Fertil, are in Southwest Florida.
The children came to the U.S. on July 22, 2007. They thought their mother was coming with them but learned on the day they left that her flight had been canceled.
Since last year, they have supported themselves, their father, and sent money to their mother, all while still in school. Carl and Marie still attend Golden Gate High School, Marc graduated last year.
After the quake, her children struggled to reach her. When she finally got through Saturday, she had to convince them it was her by listing their names.
“When the phone rang and I heard ‘hello,’ I thought, ‘Oh my God,’” Carl said Thursday evening. “It was so beautiful. I heard her voice and I started crying.”
Christophe said she was happy to inform her children that she had survived, an emotion briefly distracting her from the stress she has experienced since the quake.
“It has not happened before,” Christophe said of the tension she feels, which clenches her empty stomach and throat. She said it feels like she is being choked.
When she drinks what little water she finds, Christophe said she feels pain in her stomach. She got sick Wednesday. She has eaten only once since the disaster struck.
Accompanying Christophe in the struggle is a 3-year-old girl, Rosannia Julien, whom she took care of before the quake.
Rosannia’s parents, who leave during the day to get aid for their family, used to provide care for Christophe in exchange for the care she gave Rosannia.
The pair wander the streets during the day, finding groups of people and then resting with them.
Thursday, she was found on a corner near a broken-down tap-tap truck, a type of cab in Haiti named for the sound passengers make when they bang their hand on the side messaging the driver to stop.
A boy urinated onto the street while standing on the back of the truck bed. The street is scattered with garbage and debris.
The smell of bodies has largely subsided in the Delmas 40 neighborhood, where Christophe lived. It has been replaced with the smell of refuse.
International aid has been impossible to obtain, Christophe said. What little food she has gotten went to Rosannia, she said.
“There is nothing and I have no money to buy anything,” Christophe said, adding that she will not steal as others have done.
At night, she sleeps by her belongings, protecting them from thieves.
“Every night, there are robberies,” Christophe said.
Her neighbors fled to rural areas after the quake, her family in Haiti has either died or not been heard from, and the owner of the property where she sleeps each night is also leaving for the countryside, Christophe said.
The news distresses Carl, Marc and Marie, who are working to bring their mother to Naples.
“She’s suffering. We’re not sleeping because we know she is sleeping on the streets,” Carl said. “We have been trying to call immigration to get her here, to speed up the process, but nothing happens.”
Carl said someone at school told him that Haitians are getting visas to come here, but he doesn’t know if his mom is eligible or how she would go about getting one.
“It’s really bad. There is no work and no money,” he said. “She is not getting anything to eat. She is on the streets.”
Though the building where she lives is largely intact, bodies are still inside and the fear of each aftershock’s destruction has forced most Haitians, including Christophe, into open areas.
There is only one place she wants to be. It’s 800 miles and a bevy of red tape away.
“I would like to be with them,” she said of her children. “Because I don’t have anybody here.
Staff writer Kate Albers contributed to this report.