Suffolk resident awaits word from family

Published 11:24 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2010

As severe aftershocks to last week’s devastating earthquake continue to rock the nation of Haiti, Suffolk resident Leonard Najacque watches news reports more closely than most.

Najacque, 46, immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 1992, and still has two sisters and extended family who live there.

In his home Wednesday morning with a 24-hour news station in the background broadcasting details of the aftermath, Najacque said the devastation was worse than the 2005 hurricane season, which hit the island country with widespread flooding.

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“I know it’s going to be difficult to recover,” Najacque said, adding that more people could die in the aftermath. “The population will get more hungry. They survive right now, but they may not make it too far.”

After the Jan. 12 magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck near Port-au-Prince, the nation’s capital, Najacque was able to contact his family about three days later. His sisters and cousins were alive, he said, but they were sleeping outside, because their homes in Port-au-Prince were destroyed. He has not been able to get in contact with them since Wednesday’s 5.9-magnitude aftershock.

Najacque, now an American citizen, came to America in a boat in 1992. He left the country for political reasons, he says.

“We never have a good government” in Haiti, Najacque said. “They take advantage of Haiti. They are wealthy, have a lot of money.”

Meanwhile, Najacque said, “The country gets poorer.” The government tries to keep Haitians from knowing what is going on elsewhere in the world, and attempts to silence those who speak out.

“You can’t find out,” Najacque said. “It’s just like you’re in prison. You don’t know what’s going on outside. They find a way to keep Haiti on hold. That’s mainly the reason why I left Haiti.”

Haitian citizens also are kept down by lack of resources, Najacque said. There is no free education in Haiti — people who want their children to go to school must pay. Those whose parents cannot afford to pay do not get an education, or get very little, Najacque said.

Najacque sent money to Haiti for years for his own four children’s education, and then he brought them to America when they were old enough and sent them to American colleges.

Though news coverage from the ravaged country shows most buildings crumbled, most buildings in Haiti are relatively sturdy, Najacque said. However, the constructions of concrete and iron — including his family’s homes — apparently still were not able to withstand the temblor.

Najacque awaits word on the status of his family members after Wednesday’s aftershock.

Though he criticizes the Haitian government, Najacque said he doesn’t blame anyone for the earthquake.

“I do believe in God,” Najacque said. “It’s nobody’s fault.”