Haiti Earthquake: Stories of Survivors

A Tchaikovsky concerto is what made Romel Joseph fall in love with the violin.

He learned how to play in Haiti, where he was born, but a Fulbright scholarship would bring him to the United States, and he eventually earned a master's degree from Julliard, reports CBS News anchor Katie Couric. Music had transformed his life. He wanted to do the same for the children of Haiti.

Joseph built a school in Port-au-Prince nearly 20 years ago. He was on the third floor when suddenly …

"It was like boom boom boom and everything just opened," Joseph said."And the next thing I know I was on the ground."

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Blind since birth, Joseph tried to feel his way out, but was pinned beneath heavy concrete. He remained trapped for 18 hours. He prays that his new wife, seven months pregnant, will be found.

He is now being treated at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital for two crushed legs and an arm. Joseph wonders if he'll ever play the violin again. He can feel sensation in his fingertips.

"I'm very optimistic," he said. "If you were to give me a violin if I didn't have to fold the fingers I would be able to play."

Joseph's daughter Victoria spent three terrifying days unsure of her father's fate. For her, having him home is the sweetest music.

"Can you imagine your dad not being able to play the violin?" Couric asked.

"No, I can't," Victoria Joseph said. "But I will love him all the same if he can't."

Romel doesn't know how many of his 300 students perished in the quake. As he waits for news about his wife, Romel Joesph is already planning a return to Haiti to rebuild the school and continue teaching there.

The New Victorian School (TNVS) is a non-profit private institution located in Turgeau, Port-au-Prince, Haiti where Joseph Romel works. The school's mission is to provide families and their children with an opportunity to receive a high-quality education using either the American or the combination of Haitian and French curriculums. In addition, the school provides children and adults with the opportunity to study English as a Foreign Language with American and Haitian instructors. To learn more or donate, visit their web site.

Romel Joseph is also the founder and executive director of the Walenstein Musical Organization which brings music education to students in South Florida.


"We can save two children, 20, 200, 300, 500 through education and music, and these children will make a difference," Romel Joseph said.




Ever since the earthquake nine days ago, 176 of the injured have been brought to various South Florida hospitals and that number is expected to climb in the upcoming days. Those who've made it to places like the Broward General Medical Center are the lucky ones.

Erin Kloos, 26, was working in Haiti as a volunteer, caring for orphaned children at Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) International's facility near Port-au-Prince.

NPH is an organization that works to give orphaned, abandoned and other at-risk children who live in extreme poverty a permanent family and home. If you want to learn more, volunteer or donate, go to the NPH web site.

"The kids are all my friends. They're so much fun," Erin said. "And they always had different perspectives on everything, you know?"

Erin had just come out of the shower when the earthquake hit, and in what seemed like an instant, the six-story building she was living in completely collapsed.

"I got thrown this way, onto my back. Basically all those walls in front of me got - were on top of me, and I was buried, Kloos said.

She couldn't see anything or anyone. But she heard a voice from the pile beneath her. It was her good friend and fellow volunteer, Molly Hightower.

"We're saying, 'I'm here. It's okay. I love you. Just scream when you hear someone, OK? OK, just checking in,'" Kloos said.

It took 12 hours and a team of 30 people to dig Erin from the rubble. But as they were rescuing her, she was worrying about the fate of her friend.

"I could hear her screaming. And I think that meant that the ground below her was getting loose, was suffocating her, because that was happening to me, too," Kloos said. "That was the last time I heard her."

All things considered, Erin was lucky. She sustained crushing injuries to her arms and repertory failure from some fluid in her lungs. But amazingly, she has no broken bones.

"She's here and she's going to make a full recovery because she got out quickly and people took care of her," said John Kloos, Erin's father.

And yet, not all the Kloos family's prayers were answered. Their 24-year-old son Ryan, who was in Haiti visiting Erin, died in that very same building.

"I mean, it must be so hard to kind of deal with the joy of seeing Erin and just the terrible grief of losing your son," Couric said.

"It is, but being here has made me focus on Erin, which has ultimately helped," said Cathy Kloos, Erin's mother.

"The thing is that kid was there doing what he wanted to be doing. He was living life. He was making friends. He was working alongside her," John Kloos said. "It's an accident. It's like the tsunami. It's like a hurricane. It just happens."

Two families changed in an instant, mourning what's been lost but grateful for what has survived.
  • Katie Couric

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