'It brings you back to 2010': Local couple eager to hear from family after earthquake rocks Haiti

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- You've seen the heartbreaking video of earthquake damage in Haiti. But a couple with family connections on the island nation told ABC11 about the personal pain caused by those images.

"It's just hard to look at that footage," said Dafney Tales-Lafortune the owner of the Bon Fritay foodtruck. " Of course you want to share it, you want to raise awareness. But at the same time, it's triggering and after a while, you just can't look at it anymore, you know? And then it brings you back to 2010, when my grandmother was in Haiti when the earthquake hit and not hearing from her for days. So you're scrolling through every video you can see, thinking that maybe you might find her body. Thank God she's okay, we were able to get her back. But the concern is still the same, because now I'm married to someone whose family is in one of the cities that are affected this time around."

She and her husband Andre Lafortune own a food truck that serves Haitian cuisine to Triangle customers.

"I love Haiti! What I do here, I couldn't do it back home. I have multiple businesses, helping my community, helping my people. It's just unfortunate, with the whole insecurity, you can't go. That's why I say I have to be here," he said.

His mother called him on the day the earthquake struck -- nearly 1,300 Haitians were killed and more than 2,800 are said to be hurt as of Sunday.

RELATED: How to help Haiti: List of organizations accepting donations after deadly earthquake

"She's in the states, though we have a brother and other family members still in Haiti. I have not talked to them. I'm trying to reach out to them," he said. "She's trying to reach her people, you know, but the whole cellphone thing down there is kind of tough right now. So we're going to keep trying, to see if we can get ahold of somebody to see if everybody's okay."

The latest disaster and video showing the damage are reminders of another quake that rocked Haiti 11 years ago when a similar magnitude earthquake jolted the country resulting in mass casualties, injuries, and structural damage.

"It brings you back to 2010, when my grandmother was in Haiti when the earthquake hit and not hearing from her for days. So you're scrolling through every video you can see, thinking that maybe you might find her body," she said. "But thank God she's okay, we were able to get her back. But the concern is still the same, because now I'm married to someone whose family is in one of the cities that are affected this time around."

The earthquake comes on the heels of political instability after the recent assassination of Jovenel Moise, Haiti's elected leader.

"Haiti's already under the lights, with what happened with the president. So maybe it'll be different because of so many eyes on Haiti. So that's what I'm hoping," said Andre Lafortune.

"But I'm also concerned, because there's a lack of central leadership," said Tales-Lafortune. "And for something like this to happen, less than a month later? How is it going to pan out? So it's up to us, in the Haitian diaspora as well as those who would ally with us or partner with us, to do that research as well. Don't just immediately send money to the first big organization that says they're going to help Haiti. I think we need to be a little bit more hyperfocused."

The couple knows people want to help, but cautions potential donors that some sites and organizations claiming they'll aid Haiti are not legitimate.

"We'll compile a list of local organizations, including churches, that still do work in Haiti. Quite a few of them are our customers, so we're going to get the information, post it on our website," she said.

She expects the list will be ready by Tuesday, and they'll post it on their website.

"We can do more than just post on social media and send money back home to family members. There's more that needs to be done and I think we physically have to be there to do it," she said.

Until it's safe to return to the island, they ask for another form of support.

"Keep Haiti in your prayers. We need that because right now, comfort in any sort of way, spiritual, that would help a whole lot," he said.

Reactions pouring in from Haitians of the Triangle


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"We're all experiencing this as we go," said Azor-Sterlin. "And super new and still fresh. And super tragic."



As the death toll continued to climb, Haitians of the Triangle president Mirlesna Azor-Sterlin kept in contact with some 300 members of the organization via GroupMe.

Azor-Sterlin said local group members have been doing their best to keep in touch with family and friends on the ground in Haiti who likely were affected by the reported 7.2 magnitude earthquake that rocked the island nation.

"We're all experiencing this as we go," said Azor-Sterlin. "And super new and still fresh. And super tragic."

Azor-Sterlin said the country is in dire need for frontline workers like doctors and nurses and people available to help out with diapers, clothes, food, and money.

"Folks really want a coordinated effort," said Azor-Sterlin. She recommends doing your research on where you're sending your money for relief efforts as many GoFundMe accounts have been linked to fraudulent activity.

She credits USAID, Partners in Health, and Doctors Without Borders as reputable organizations she trusts with assisting affected Haitians.

"We're not saying do not donate," she said. "We're simply saying do your research."

Currently, the group has not formalized any official efforts for assistance. However, they will be meeting this week to discuss ways to help family, friends, and other Haitians affected by this natural disaster.
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