Haitian brothers reflect on moving to Queens Village

Haitian brothers reflect on moving to Queens Village
Brothers Christopher Richmond (l.) and Sebastien Moleon pose with their grandmother, Merie Lila Mathieu, in their Queens Village home. Photo by Christina Santucci
By Howard Koplowitz

Two Haitian brothers who miraculously got out of their crumbling home alive during last year’s earthquake in the impoverished country said moving to Queens Village and attending Bayside High School has been a smooth transition for both of them.

Christopher Richmond, 16, and Sebastien Moleon, 15, said they did not experience culture shock when they arrived in Queens Village because they had been coming to Queens every summer.

The boys slept in the American embassy in Port-au-Prince for two days before they were able to get a flight out of the stricken Caribbean nation four days after the 7.3-magnitude earthquake.

“I saw things a kid my age shouldn’t be seeing,” Christopher said. “Bodies, graves, bones, blood. I even had this girl ask me to kill her because she was suffering too much.”

But the 16-year-old, who had kept a journal since the earthquake hit, said he only thinks about what he witnessed when he is by himself.

The two brothers escaped their Port-au-Prince home along with their aunt, cousin, grandfather and two others who were living with the family but not related.

“I was just in my bed doing my homework and [the house] just started shaking,” Christopher said during an interview Monday night at his Queens Village home. “Everything started collapsing on me. I had my little cousin in my arm.”

“The first two minutes, I was scared,” Christopher said. “You came to the earth to die so it’s either you die or you stay alive. I was just thinking I was going to die there so suddenly. If God wanted me to die, I wanted to die. I saw a light so I could get out and I got out.”

Sebastien said he remembered “it was all black” when his house was falling apart.

“I couldn’t see anything,” he said. “I tried to find a way to go out and I found light through the bricks. I took my cousin and went outside with him.”

The boys now live with their grandmother, parents and older brother in Queens Village and attend Bayside HS.

They said they were taught English in Haiti, so there was no language barrier when they started high school in Queens and Christopher now tutors his peers in French classes while Sebastien joined Bayside’s French Club.

Both brothers said learning is “rushed more” in the United States and is not as difficult as in Haitian schools.

“It’s way easier,” Christopher said. “Haiti is more difficult because you learn more stuff.”

Meanwhile, the boys said their private school in Haiti collapsed in the earthquake and is being rebuilt.

Although the brothers are thriving in Queens, they have a desire to visit their homeland and long for Haitian dishes like marinade fritay, a type of Haitian fast food.

The boys said they have not tried to find the food in Queens they enjoyed back home and did not want to bother their grandmother to cook it.

“We never asked her because she’s done a lot for us,” Christopher said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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