PROVO — Daniel Cameau remembers bottle-feeding and changing the diapers of his younger cousin, Marcus Idelphonse, when their families lived in the rural outskirts of Haiti's capital city, Port-Au-Prince.
Siblings and cousins pulled together to nurture and sustain each other. Parents, grandparents and older caregivers slowly left the families — some dying, some moving to the job-rich United States to better provide for the families, and at least one was murdered after being an eyewitness to a crime.
After spending his first 20 years in Haiti, it was Cameau's turn in the family's rotation for relocation. He moved away — first joining other family members in Brooklyn, N.Y.; then on an LDS Church mission to the West Indies;and since to Utah, where he and his wife, Eva, are raising a young family.
But he never ceased caring for Marcus, with long-distance nurturing and an occasional money order.
That caring included encouraging Marcus to pursue an education and to learn English. It included sending the Mormon missionaries to Marcus and helping him embrace a new religion. It included cheering Marcus on as he first married and then welcomed his firstborn.
And it included the tear-jerking relief felt by the Cameaus when in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, cousin Marcus finally called after several days of no communication.
"I'm just grateful I'm still alive," Idelphonse said in his first post-Ike call as he bailed stagnant water out of his small Port-Au-Prince home.
After Tuesday's devastating earthquake in Haiti, and after no contact Wednesday or Thursday, Daniel Cameau longs to hear a similar expression from his cousin Marcus: "I'm still alive."
But he paces around his southwest Provo home, cradling both a landline phone and cell phone, checking TV reports and surfing the Internet to absorb the latest tidbits of information. He sees videos and photographs of Port-Au-Prince landmarks and the accompanying devastation — and he immediately knows the neighborhood of his youth was among the hardest-hit.
"It's like something you would see in a nightmare," he said, taking a break from phones, TVs and computers.
"You cannot help but feel helpless when you're here," he continued. "It has become real and surreal at the same time."
Cameau's immediate family members all live in the United States, including twin brother David, who resides in Orem. They call each other for any new tidbits of information and to talk about possible trips to Haiti to help locate extended family members and friends, including Daniel's aunt, who helped him complete the paperwork to relocate to the United States two decades ago.
"It's like you take a bulldozer and you level the city down with the people still in it," he said. "You have total chaos. And I'm over here wishing I was over there, giving a hand and helping out in any way I could."
Despite hailing from an island nation a half a world way, Eva Cameau has complete empathy with her husband's worry-and-wait predicament.
A native of Indonesia, she suffered through the same extended periods of uncertainties in that country caused by the December 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and ensuing tsunami that claimed nearly a quarter-million lives.
She went through an extended time of not knowing the status of all her immediate and extended family members living in Indonesia. In the end, they were all fine — they lived in the East Java province, with the tsunami's devastating waves pounding Indonesia's western islands.
"It's just worrying and not being able to do anything about it," said Eva Cameau.5 comments on this story
The two met in 1999 as Utah Valley State College students attending the same LDS singles ward; they married the following year.
And neither would have thought their upbringings on opposite sides of the globe would result in shared emotions following major natural disasters, and teaching their young sons about life and death and tsunamis and earthquakes.
But Daniel and Eva Cameau have, just a half-decade apart — 2004 in Indonesia and now, 2010, in Haiti.
"It happened in my country," said Eva Cameau. "I know how he feels, and I know he's hurting," she said of her husband.