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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
BYU student Rousseline Salter, left, talks about her family's ordeal in Haiti on Friday.

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."

Jones said she was so scared that her family members would be the bodies in the streets, covered with cardboard boxes, tarps or bloody sheets.

"It's a miracle," she said, "I know that God is watching."

She said she knows God will also watch over the families who are still waiting for news, or comfort those who have received the worst possible news.

As the two sisters talk in Salter's apartment, their mother, who doesn't speak English, sits quietly in the corner of the couch, focusing on the grandson in her arms.

She has smooth ebony skin and deep eyes and responds in soft Haitian Creole when she's asked about the tragedy.

"It was really sad to watch the people on the streets," Salter says, translating for her mother. "She stopped watching (the news) after a while. She's sad because she's not able to be with the kids, to be there for them."

The sisters say they have been flooded with support from friends, former mission companions and their mission presidents.

Salter said she even got an e-mail from a math professor she had at LDS Business College in 2006.

The three oldest sisters joined the LDS Church at the same time in 1999. Several of her siblings joined a few years later, and before she got married in 2007, her parents joined the church.

The three sisters served missions in Florida, Temple Square and Haiti.

It's their faith that is sustaining them, and even saving their lives.

Even though she only had a few minutes on the phone, Rousselande told her sister that while she was trapped in the three-story rubble, she kept praying to be rescued.

The two men who found her said they felt a prompting to come back and look again in the area where she was.

"When I prayed, I didn't feel too worried about them," Salter said. "I felt like things are going to be all right."

EMAIL: sisraelsen@desnews.com