Native Haitian tells of quake’s horrors

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2010

Among visitors in Vicksburg this week was a student who not too long ago was living in “unspeakable” conditions.

Carl Nazaire was with classmates from New York Theological Seminary on a Southern tour of Civil Rights and Civil War venues. He’s a native of Haiti, and was there Jan. 12 when an earthquake struck, killing nearly 200,000 including his niece.

“My daughter put me on as a missing person here in the United States,” he said. “There was no communication. After two or three days, I got a call on my cell phone. I was safe, but no one was safe, really.”

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His daughter, Karen, is a student at Mississippi College School of Law.

Nazaire, a U.S. citizen, said he was evacuated by the Air Force 10 days after the earthquake struck, but during that time, he said he faced the same conditions as almost everyone else in the impoverished island nation. “I had to sleep outside. I didn’t want to take the chance of being inside,” he said. “I lost my niece. She was about 20 years old. Life is very hard in Haiti right now. Many people lost everything. They are still sleeping outside and in tents. There’s no way for them to survive.”

The group visiting Vicksburg was led by Peter Heltzel, the author of  “Jesus and Justice: Evangelicals, Race, and American Politics.” While here, Heltzel, a Vicksburg native, autographed books at Lorelei Books on downtown Washington Street.

“I try to make connections,” Nazaire said of his trip. “The connection of how things are done here and how things are done there, and blend them to show my identity.”

Nazaire said his homeland remains on his mind. In addition to the natural disaster, the country has often seen chaos due to corruption and a lack of stable societal systems.

“We have to raise money and rebuild,” Nazaire said. “We cannot stay away and let the people take care of themselves.”

The students and their leaders are on a six-city tour to explore the roots of the Civil Rights movement and the history of the Civil War as it pertains to race and religion.

“We’re trying to figure out what Southern religions have to offer to the world,” Heltzel said. “I’m trying to work through to create a round table where blacks and white, women and men can tell the truth about the history.”

While in Vicksburg, the group of about 15 visited the Vicksburg National Military Park, the Jacqueline House African-American Museum and the downtown area. Other cities on their tour of the Civil Rights Trail include Memphis, Montgomery, Birmingham, Selma and Jackson.

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at