Schenectady County

Haitian student worries, wonders

A Haitian student at Union College has spent a nervous few days worrying about relatives.

Union College junior Cybil Tribie checked her phone early Tuesday evening, finding several messages, including one from her mother.

Her mother was in Miami for a wedding, having traveled there from the family home outside Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Tribie’s mother’s voice was shaky. There had been a large earthquake and she hadn’t yet heard from her husband.

“I turned on the TV to CNN and that’s when I started hearing all the damage and how bad it was,” Tribie said Wednesday. “Initially, I was just in shock and disbelief.”

As the hours went by, the family finally heard from her father, Ralph Tribie. He and the family’s home in the Petion-Ville section of the city escaped intact.

Tribie said she has friends elsewhere in the United States who still don’t know the status of family members. She’s been lucky enough to hear news of many of her family members and friends.

But she has yet to hear about her great-aunt, the woman everyone calls “godmother.” She’s a nun, living closer to the center of the capital.

Tribie grew up near Port-au-Prince, where her father worked in a window factory and was an architect. She left the country when she was 15, around the time of the 2004 political unrest, for Miami and relatives there.

After high school, she came to Schenectady and Union College, studying environmental science. She had always wanted to go to college in the Northeast. She had never seen snow until she arrived.

She visited Haiti for the holidays, arriving Dec. 16 and returning to Schenectady on Jan. 2.

On her trip, she met up with several cousins from Connecticut and New York, giving them a tour of the city. One of the stops on the tour was the now-destroyed Palais National.

Tribie said she hasn’t gotten a detailed account of how her father got through the quake, but it hit about the time he would still be at work.

Her father helped pull a friend from a building. The friend has survived.

Tribie spent Wednesday talking to friends to see if their families were OK, if they’d had any word. She also called her mother, Laurence, frequently for updates.

Tribie has already been involved in several organizations on campus, including running the volunteer-related program Union College Community Action Reaching Everyone, and the Park Avenue Community Stewardship.

She said she spoke with college officials and friends Wednesday about starting a fundraising drive to benefit relief agencies and her country.

“It’s been a day of panic and fluster,” Tribie said. “I really want to be there. It’s my home. But what good would I be if I go there? What would I do? It’s a feeling of uselessness.”

“And I’m worried, of course. At any given time any number of buildings could collapse. It’s a feeling of dread for the future.”

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