Bayside High School students recall surviving quake

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As children and teachers at Queens Village Day School were doing their part for Haiti by marching down the street in their tie-dyed finest, another worker at the school was thanking his lucky stars.

The kids, whosold the shirts to their parents in return for $5 donations to the American Red Cross and UNICEF, were not as happy as Laurore Richmond, 61, who drives a bus for the school and originally hails from Haiti. He was reunited Jan. 30 with two of his sons who were caught in the devastating earthquake in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital.

“I believed I would see them, no matter what,” Richmond said of his boys, who attended school in Port-au-Prince. “I’d go looking for them.”

Christopher Richmond, 15, was doing homework on his bed in his aunt’s house Jan. 13 when he heard dishes falling on the floor in the other room.

“My younger brother went to see what was going on,” he said. “Then the house starts shaking and I grabbed my cousin. %u2026 While I was running I fell on the floor and I saw the wall start breaking.”

Christopher was knocked unconscious as the house collapsed around him. Miraculously, neither he nor his brother and cousin were severely injured. He came to buried in rubble.

“I was thinking how I was going to die in sufferance and I saw a sunlight enter the place I was and I start hearing people crying and screaming. I started pulling the rocks and the boards that [were] blocking my way out.”

Christopher and his brother went with his aunt to the hospital to treat their cousin, who had a scratch on his head.

“I saw the worst things of my life, things I don’t want to see again in my life: Brain on the floor, bone, people screaming to death,” he said.

Christopher stayed at his uncle’s house for two days until he was taken to the American embassy and returned to New York.

“I didn’t want to go because I wanted to stay and help people,” he said, “because everyone in Haiti has lost someone.”

Christopher and his little brother, Sebastien, 14, were slated to start at Bayside High School this week. Though both brothers were born in the United States, this will be the first time they have been educated in this country.

“I’m nervous and happy,” said Christopher, who wants to be a surgeon.

Richmond, their father, said he was in limbo after he learned of the earthquake.

“Is they dead or is they alive? I don’t know,” he said. “I was confused. I said, ‘God, only you know. Is they inside a home? Is they somewhere else?’ I’m so confused. I drank to get to sleep.”

Richmond received a call from a relative 24 hours after the disaster saying his sons were fine.

“I’m OK after that,” he said.

Richmond was able to make his own contribution to helping Haitian refugees recently, said Vernetta Brown, the school’s executive director.

When the school’s staff ran across an 11-year-old girl who had gotten off her bus at the wrong stop and was lost, Richmond was able to translate her French and contact her mother. The family had just come to the neighborhood from the island nation, Brown said.

“You’re going to see a lot of that,” she said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:01 pm, October 10, 2011
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