Haitian athletes left in state of prayer following earthquake

USF junior safety Jon Lejiste’s phone buzzed a week ago with some very bad news. It was a text message from one of his teammates saying he needed to get to a TV.

He went home, turned on the news and saw the same thing on every station. Haiti, his family’s home country, was feeling the aftermath of a massive 7.0-scale earthquake.

The first thing he did was contact his parents, asking about family he has in Haiti. But phone lines were down, Lejiste, one of 12 USF football players with Haitian descent, said.

‘We couldn’t reach any family members,’ he said Tuesday. ‘As time went on, we eventually came in contact with them and everyone from my family is OK.’

Other USF athletes didn’t receive such good news.’

Melissa Dalembert, a senior forward on the USF women’s basketball team, said she didn’t find out about the earthquake until Tuesday after the game at Notre Dame.

‘My dad got on the Internet. I don’t know how or where,’ she said. ‘He sent me an e-mail saying his family was OK ‘hellip; but they couldn’t get ahold of my mom’s side. I kept calling, kept trying ‘hellip; I didn’t care how much the bill cost. I just kept calling and I reached him at 8 in the morning.’ He told me everyone was OK except for my little cousin who got injured. We lost a couple people.’

Dalembert missed USF’s game Saturday against Syracuse to be with her family in Miami. She returned to school Monday.

USF linebacker Sabbath Joseph said he’s keeping in contact with some of his family in Haiti throughout the situation, but some have been out of reach.

‘(My mother) has been able to contact my uncle and a few other family members,’ he said. ‘There’s still some people unaccounted for on my father’s side,’ he said. ‘I put everything in God’s hands to keep my faith and prayers every day for Haiti, my family – for my teammates.’

For senior safety Mistral Raymond, there was a lot of waiting and prayer this week.

‘Just waiting to get information,’ Raymond said. ‘Constant prayer. Just hoping for the best ‘hellip; I hadn’t heard anything. I tried to give my grandmother a call, and there was no dial tone or ring tone. It just sounded like emergency sirens coming through the phone.’

Since the disaster, USF has launched initiatives to send relief to Haiti by holding canned food drives, partnering with a Hatian radio station that is holding a benefit concert.

The University, which is setting up donation boxes on campus, is also offering group therapy in the USF Counseling Center for those who are present. The death toll has exceeded 200,000, according to The Associated Press.

Raymond said the worst part is being away from his family members right now.

‘It’s something you have to fight through,’ Raymond said Tuesday. ‘We didn’t ask for it, but you have to realize you still have obligations here. It is on your mind constantly. We’re all blessed to be in the position we are here. You just imagine the people in that situation.’