NSU grad from Haiti discusses devastating earthquake, loss of two relatives

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Posted at 3:05 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 20:08:21-04

NORFOLK, Va. - Through a collage of pictures, Norfolk resident Yasmine Charles is transported back to her Haitian heritage.

"This is the year before I came to America," she shows News 3 in a picture Tuesday. "I was born in Haiti, and when I was 12, my father decided to bring my sister and I here," she said.

At 21, she enlisted in the Navy and worked as a cook for eight years while in the military. After that, she attended Norfolk State University.

"I love my country and I am proud of my heritage, but I am also ashamed of Haiti," she said.

Charles is not devastated looking at the images of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit the country on Saturday, reducing the town of Les Cayes to rubble.

"I was shocked and stunned," said Charles.

Fourteen hundred people are presumed dead - two of whom are her cousins, one being the former mayor of Les Cayes, Gabriel Fortune.

"We had folks sleeping outside last night. There are no tents, no shelters for them to go to and why? I am just angry with the Haitian government."

She's displeased because she believes after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people, emergency plans should have been put in place for these types of disasters.

"I feel like every time Haiti has a natural disaster or political unrest, we have to rely yet again on the kindness and generosity of other nations," said Charles. "I don't understand. We have had billions of dollars poured into Haiti."

Just in the last month, she has watched the assassination of the president of Haiti, the earthquake and now Tropical Storm Grace dumping more rain on the country.

"It is tragedy on top of tragedy on top of tragedy," she said.

Related: USS Arlington departs Naval Station Norfolk for Haiti disaster relief after powerful earthquake

She is talking to her extended family in Haiti daily and is trying to figure out how to get them a passport or visa out of the country.

"They deserve the same life I have here in America, and I am going to get them out come hell or high water," she said.