2011-01-27 / Top Stories

Quake Survivors Start Anew At Isaac Bildersee I.S. 68

By Skye Holly

Megane Nacier Megane Nacier In the year since an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti, its population has been trying to put their lives back together as best as they could. This has been a challenge in the midst of unstable living conditions, hurricanes, a cholera outbreak and presidential elections that show no signs of promise.

One survivor started a new life last March when she came to the United States.

Megane Nacier, 12, came with her mother to stay with her uncle and his family in Canarsie. They left behind a home that caught on fire during the earthquake as a large section of it exploded. Megane’s mother, Marie Nacier, subsequently came to New York to be treated for severe burns at a hospital in Manhattan. Before leaving their homeland, the mother and daughter moved into one of the tent villages after the earthquake because it was unsafe to return to their crumbling house. When the crowding in the tents became too uncomfortable and the response to get treatment for her burns was slow, Nacier decided to come to Brooklyn and stay with her family.

Marie Romelus Marie Romelus Even though she could have left her daughter with family in Haiti, “I had to bring Megane with me,’’ she recently remembered.

Megane, too, remembers the earthquake vividly and says that it is something she will never forget. She recalls the first few moments when she thought it was only a mild earthquake. The aftershocks were scarier than she could have imagined. The sounds of that terrible day still haunt her. Megane was glad to leave the tent village, even though it meant leaving behind the only life she ever knew.

“In Haiti, I had everything. My house was big and I had my own room. I could see my friends every day,’’ she said.

But Marie Nacier was concerned for her daughter’s safety if she left without her. As the chief accountant for the island nation’s Justice Department, Nacier knew that her daughter might become a prime target for kidnapping if left behind. So the two came to New York so Marie could receive care for the burns that covered her face, arms, hands and shoulders.

When Marie enrolled Megane at Isaac Bildersee I.S. 68 in April, Megane seemed to adjust to her postearthquake life and started to feel optimistic again.

There were other students in her class, like Marie Romelus, 12, who also came from Haiti after the earthquake. Romelus was also glad to be in school, remembering that she watched her school fall to pieces in Haiti.

While other students who survived the earthquake have comforted Megane and Marie, they credit their teachers even more with helping them adjust to their new lives.

“At first, it was not so easy to make friends,” Megane said. “Some people were nice to me, but sometimes others were rude or asked questions I did not want to answer. But the teachers always tried to protect me,”

Romelus agreed. “My teachers helped me to understand everything. When I first came I was quieter because I missed Haiti. Now I like New York and I like to go to Coney Island,’’ she said.

Megane loves Bildersee and said she makes new friends every day. She recently won first place in her class spelling bee and will represent the seventh grade as they compete to make it to the National Spelling Bee.

“I have to go back. I have to go back with my daughter.’’ Marie Nacier says. “I am only here for treatment.’’

Unsure of what kind of life she will return to, Nacier said, ‘’I miss my life. I miss Haiti. But Megane, she wants to stay.’’

The Naciers have extended their sixmonth visas once already for Marie’s continued treatment at the hospital and will have to re-apply in March. Marie Nacier is eager to return to her homeland but senses her daughter sees America as their new home.

“She wants to stay at her middle school and she is talking about a university,’’ Nacier said.

Megane has started thinking about her childhood dreams and tells friends she wants to be a pediatrician. She is thankful for a second chance and says, “I want to save lives.’’

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