The devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday, January 12, has left hundreds of New Yorkers waiting by the phone with baited breath for news of families and friends.
Among those enduring the tense wait is New York Public Library clerk Wilson Francis.
The 13-year library employee has about 30 family members in Haiti, including several who live at the center of the quake.
“I am trying to stay calm,” said Francis, who works at Clason’s Point Library in the Bronx. “I don’t want to panic.”
As soon as Francis learned of the earthquake, he scoured TV and the Internet to find information, and began to attempt calling relatives to confirm their safety.
He reached many of them. But not all.
“I haven’t been able to reach my cousins,” he said. “They live right in the center where the earthquake hit. But I’m staying positive. I know the relatives I did reach by phone or text don’t have electricity to charge their phones, and the landlines are down. So it’s not easy to call.”
Either way, he’s terribly anxious. “I know food and water are scarce right now,” he said. “So, yes, I’m really concerned.”
Francis hopes to travel to Haiti to volunteer with relief efforts, but with commercial flights cancelled and Haitian infrastructure upended, he’s unsure when and if that will happen.
“I would love to go,” he said. “But I have to wait and see what’s possible.”
In the interim, he and his fellow colleagues at Clason’s Point Library are determining the best way to aid the victims in Haiti.
“Everyone is really concerned,” Francis said. “And most of the people who know me here have expressed their concern to me. They’ve all offered to help anyway they can. I really appreciate that.”
He urged the public and the NYPL community to stay educated on the evolving situation and to determine their own ways of helping, either through supply or monetary donations, or volunteering their services.
“I was in Haiti last year,” he said. “My family and I drove through the capital. We saw the palace and took pictures of it. We passed all the UN bases. We drove around the country, basically. And now to see images of how things are now... it’s unbelievable. And I’m glad so many people want to help. Because it’s really needed.”