BYU students get good news from siblings

Published: Saturday, Jan. 16 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

BYU student Rousseline Salter talks about her family's ordeal in Haiti on Friday.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

PROVO — Rousseline Salter can't describe what it smells like to sleep in a street full of dead bodies.

But her family can.

Their home in Delmas, Haiti, is gone, leveled by the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that ravaged the island nation Tuesday afternoon.

Two days later, a massive aftershock crumbled the LDS stake center where they had sought refuge, forcing Salter's father, brother and four sisters to sleep in the road between piles of rubble and dusty bodies that still await burial.

"Everything is destroyed, all of the houses and everything," said Salter, after a phone call early Friday morning from her 23-year-old sister, Rousselande. "They just slept on the streets last night. The streets stank with the dead bodies. It was kind of hard to hear her say that."

Sitting in her Provo apartment, Salter, 27, wears a tired smile, her emotions vacillating between relief at knowing her family is alive and fear in not knowing what they will do next.

She doesn't even know if her younger siblings have food or water.

The BYU student, who wants to get a degree in nursing, wishes she could go down and help. Instead, she sits in her modest Provo apartment with her 4-month-old son, Kyle, her mother and another sister, clutching her cell phone and praying.

The first good news came Thursday at 12:23 p.m., when Rousselande called to say that after 18 hours of praying she had been rescued from the rubble of her collapsed college classroom.

"I'm OK now, but my leg is kind of hurt," Rousselande said during the two-minute conversation.

"I wanted to talk to her more, but she was using the stake president's phone," Salter said.

But Friday's call wasn't the conversation Salter hoped for.

"She sounds way worried," Salter said quietly. "I don't know what to do. I didn't know what to say either."

This week has been an emotional roller coaster for Salter's family — especially for another sister, 26-year-old Rousselene, who got married Jan. 8, and days into her happy marriage learned of the quake.

"I was totally devastated," Rousselene Jones said. "It made it worse going to the Internet. Everybody's dead. And what about my family?"

Salter and Jones' parents, Emmanuel and Lomene Buissereth, flew up for the wedding, but the five other children, ages 23 to 15, stayed behind in Haiti.

Lomene came on a one-way ticket so she could stay longer in Provo to dote on her new grandson while Salter and her husband go to school.

Salter and Jones are students at BYU, and another brother, Raphael, who goes by Phaya, is studying at UVU.

After the wedding, Lomene stayed, and Emmanuel flew back to Haiti Tuesday.

His flight landed at 1 p.m. — just hours before the quake struck.

For two days, the women didn't know if he made it back home.

"I've been worried since Tuesday," Salter said Thursday. "I'm so relieved. It's like a big burden fell off my shoulders."

But by Friday morning, another burden had already taken its place.

And watching the news doesn't help.

The last time Salter turned on the TV she said they were showing a mortuary.

"The place was so full," she said. "All of the dead bodies on the ground. It's really heartbreaking to watch and not be able to do anything."

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