Haitian Disaster Touches Thousands in U.S.

America has long and strong ties to Haiti. As many as 50,000 Americans are living there and there are more than 800-thousand people of Haitian descent spread out across the United States. Following Tuesday's massive earthquake, they're worried about friends and relatives - and anxious to help, as CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports.

Across the country in Haitian-American neighborhoods, moods alternate between desperate hope and the depths of despair.

In Miami, the city with the nation's largest Haitian community, Estaing Phebee clutches her cell phone. Unable to reach her relatives in the earthquake zone, she fears she's lost her entire family.

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In Chicago, home to more than 8,000 people of Haitian descent, Bernard Geto repeated the frustrating cell phone ritual.

"I'm trying calling, calling - anybody that I know," Geto said. "But I can not get through."

In Los Angeles, restaurant owner Ti-Geores Laguerre divides his time between running his business and trying to reach relatives in Haiti. He was lucky to finally get through to a cousin.

"He is okay but the whole country is in chaos and it's bad," Laguerre said.

So friends and relatives are helping any way they can - setting up collections for relief supplies like blankets, clothing and other emergency items.

In New York, home to more than 230,000 Haitians, Fabrice Armand took off from work to get on his computer to track down family and friends. On Facebook, he reached Gilles Salle in Port-au-Prince.

"I saw 30 people dead right beside me," Armand said, reading from his friend's account of the quake. "I was on the road. The hill just fell down right next to me. It was kind of like big waves coming in, underneath me, and I don't know how I made it."

Reading his friend's description of the earthquake, Armand came to a sudden and sad realization.

"It makes me think about my own family that I really can't get in contact with right now," he said. "Just hearing his accounts of what's going on, like the possibilities of them actually getting out are kind of just like slim to none."

He paused. "It's just. I don't know."

With so much heartache and worry, worshippers at a Chuirch in Miami's Little Haiti came for comfort and prayer.

Worshipper Florence Clerval sobbed and said, "I am tired of seeing those pictures of sadness."