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Haitian American Census Advisory Board Member Survives Haiti Quake

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 19, 2010: A member of the US Census Bureau`s Race and Ethnicity Advisory Committee and vice-chair of the African-American Committee is lucky to be alive, after surviving the deadly earthquake of January 12th in Haiti.

Dr. Linda Marc, who is an epidemiologist at the Center for Multicultural Mental Health Research at Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard-affiliated public healthcare system located outside of Boston, was in Haiti on January 12th when the quake struck and thankfully survived to tell the tale.

`It`s kind of a strange experience. I have an apartment and home office in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince and just left the home office to go back into the main part of the apartment and heard a knocking noise,` reminisced Dr. Marc on Caribbean Corner on WWRL 1600 AM Saturday.

`Then I felt my building going back and forth with me. Before I knew it my hands were on a wall. I thought the building was collapsing but never thought there was an earthquake. Then I ran outside and saw other people living in the building gathered in the court yard outside and someone said there was an earthquake of 7.0. in Haiti.`

Marc, who was in Haiti since December doing research on HIV/AIDS and mental health, said she then looked below, down  the mountain from where her building was, and all she saw over the capital was dust.

`Then I saw explosions – gas stations exploding,` she added in the exclusive interview with hosts of the show – CWNN`s Felicia Persaud and WWRL`S Rennie Bishop on Feb. 13th. `The ironic thing is my building did not fall. It was well designed by a Haitian who lives in US and the fact that we were on a mountain side, I think the mountain absorbed the shock and that`s why 25-30 of us were alive.`

For the next 10 nights, Marc said her husband and her were forced to sleep out in their building`s courtyard and endure 50 degree weather, since they were not allowed back in to buildings out of fear of aftershocks.

Three days after the quake, her husband and her managed to make it down the mountain and start looking for friends and colleagues.

`It took me three days to get down to the city below. What I saw then was most of houses were flattened. We saw everyone – rich and poor at with all houses gone and people all sleeping in street. Then I saw bodies all over street – many wrapped up in white sheets and lined up to be picked up,` said Marc. `As I got closer to the airport we saw people digging mass graves because there was just no way else it seemed. People were even digging graves on the side of road.`

Despite criticism over a lack of aid flowing quicker into the country, Marc said she did see lots of water trucks and significant help from the Dominican Republic in the three days after the quake.

`I did see aid. In particular water, free water trucks in almost all neighborhoods I passed through,` she said.  ` I also saw plenty of helicopters and many planes on our tarmac. But I did not have TV/cable and Internet was down so I did not see what the world was seeing but I could only see what was in front of me and from my vantage point, aid was coming in to the epicenter and people were organizing to help each other. I also went to state university hospital and saw Israel, Haitian American docs. France etc. helping.`

Marc only returned to the U.S. on January 28th and was evacuated as an American on the military flight. It took her 10 days to get word to her relatives that both she and her husband survived the quake and were not among the over 200,000 dead. She now hopes that Haitians in the country and the Diaspora will be included in the rebuilding plans for their nation.

`I would like to see even open forum or congressional meetings for Haitian leaders in community to be involved because we know the culture,` she told the radio show, adding that so far she has not seen such an outreach and is `concerned about that.

`People making proposal have to be careful and that`s why it`s important to involve Haitians in the planning process as they know the culture and geography of the land. Outsiders cannot make these decisions arbitrarily The decisions cannot be made without the involvement of Haitians who are living in Haiti and are experts on their own country,` added Marc.

Marc`s primary research aims are to identify psychological and behavioral factors that impact HIV treatment outcomes. With the Center for Public Health Preparedness, she is studying health communication behaviors amongst persons of Haitian ancestry in the US, and how they respond to health `messaging` for HIV/AIDS, H1N1, and public health emergencies.

Marc received an MS in Health and Social Behavior, and doctorate of science (ScD) in Social Epidemiology, both from the Harvard School of Public Health. She also holds an MPH in Chronic Disease Epidemiology from Yale School of Public Health; and BA in Psychology from St. John`s University in New York.

Haiti`s January 12th quake claimed over 200,000 lives and according to the IDB, cost close to 14 billion dollars in damages.