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Aftermath of Haiti earthquake hits basketball team

JACKSON, Tenn. - 2/10/2010 - Cardinal & Cream Story, by Ryan Hoover (story

Former Los Angeles Lakers star Ervin “Magic” Johnson once said, “When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are.” Magic said this after receiving news he had a serious illness, but while the circumstances are different, the same principle can be applied to Antoine Joseph, junior business administration major, and the recent earthquake in Haiti.

On Jan. 12, Joseph began his day like most others, oblivious to the developing crisis that would change his life. He and fellow Port-au-Prince native Samuel Danache, freshman accounting major, stayed after practice to get extra shooting practice when they received the terrible news. As Allen North, senior pre-med major, told the two Haitians about the earthquake, Joseph remembers not understanding the seriousness of the disaster.

“Even after (Allen) told me it was a (magnitude) 7.0 earthquake, I was still calm because I didn’t think it had hit Port-au-Prince,” Joseph said. “Most earthquakes in Haiti hit a town called Gonaïves.”

The group went to Coach David Niven’s office to confirm the bad news but only received worse news. After watching the news reports, they learned the earthquake had rattled their hometown and sent their society into chaos.

Joseph began feeling the way many Union students felt on Feb. 5, 2008, as they saw the destruction of the tornado, the fear of the unknown.

“All the systems were down. I tried to call my mom and my sister several times but I heard nothing,” Joseph said. “I began to freak out because on the news I saw people were hurt really bad. I haven’t watched TV since.”

Danache received word from family members the evening after the earthquake, but Joseph’s fear only increased day-by-day. Family members in Philadelphia informed Joseph they had heard from some of his family in Haiti, but had received no word from his mother, Rosemane Joseph, or his sister, Rosalie Robin, 15.

Without any word from his mother or sister, Joseph had to continue with his daily life with nothing more than prayer.

“After not hearing anything about my mom and sister, all I could do was pray … and hope they were safe,” Joseph said.

Joseph continued with basketball practice, and found encouragement through his teammates and coaches. Before playing against conference rival Freed-Hardeman, Niven encouraged him to “play for Haiti” and Joseph represented his country playing well.

Teammates were another source of encouragement for Joseph throughout the week.

“Guys on the team would always ask me if I had heard from my family and were always trying to keep my spirits high,” Joseph said.

Brady Sheppard, freshman electrical engineering major, said the team prayed specifically for Haiti and the families of Joseph and Danache daily.

“We try to give them small encouragements and pats on the back to let them know we’re there for them,” Sheppard said. “We want them to know they still have a family here who cares for them.”

After a week of no news from his family, Joseph finally heard from his mother and sister, who were unharmed in the earthquake. However, he was informed Petionville, Joseph’s neighborhood, was badly damaged. According to his mother, his home and school were destroyed and his church was severely damaged.

Joseph received even more bad news when he learned a cousin and several of his friends had died in the earthquake.

“When you hear about someone you know has died, it’s tough,” Joseph said. “You start thinking about the last things you said to the person…. It makes me cry.”

Though faced with the tough circumstances, Joseph has found hope and purpose from a higher calling.

“You live and you die and you should thank God for the days you are still on this earth,” Joseph said. “I know God always has a purpose and you never know what’s going to happen. I could have been in Haiti and died, but I didn’t and all I can do is pray for those I love.”

Joseph summarized his feelings about his fate and God’s infinite grace.

“God knows what he’s doing,” Joseph said. “He brought me here two years ago and knew about the earthquake then. Sam and me are here for a reason and I thank God we are.”

Joseph is returning to Haiti this summer for the first time in two years. He was thankful for the support the students gave him and his friend in Haiti.


Steven Aldridge
Phone: (731) 661-5027
Sports Information
Fax: (731) 661-5182

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