A young man from Haiti who was living in an orphanage a decade ago following the devastating earthquake that hit the country suited up this past Tuesday for his first day as a business analyst in Oklahoma.
This week marks two significant moments in Franciscot Auguste’s life: one of great accomplishment, the other of great sadness.
On Tuesday, the 24-year-old suited up for his first day as a business analyst after graduating from Alabama’s Auburn University in Alabama with a Master in Science in Information Systems Management.
Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the day his native country was sent into chaos and the day Auguste lost his little brother in the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Then 14 years old, he was in mourning when he spoke to Global News journalist Antony Robart at a Haiti orphanage. “I went up to see if he did not make it, like pass somewhere else. And I could not find him,” he told Robart days after the earthquake.
A decade later, and thousands of kilometres away, Auguste can still recount what happened moment by moment.
On Jan. 12, 2010, at 4:53 p.m., Auguste immediately knew what was going on.
His reaction was to run. He grabbed one of his brother’s friends and urged him to follow. As soon as they left the building, the entire section where they were collapsed.
He says “by three seconds, really, if I had been three seconds slower, I would have been under the whole building.”
His brother Peterson was still inside.
“I started looking for him because I didn’t realize that he had not made it out.”
Auguste started circling around the building, calling out for Peterson, hoping that he made it out safely.
“I spent probably 30 minutes just running looking for him, hoping and thinking that he made it out safe.” It took a couple of days to find Peterson’s body.
“It was hard to find him and get his body because he was under so much rubble,” Auguste says.
Auguste also reflected on the pain people were going through.
“People who had lives, who had spent their lives building their homes, their families, their projects, their businesses, and seeing that all come down — everything that they had known. Seeing all that get destroyed in less than than 40 seconds. It was traumatic.”
Hundreds of thousands of people died that day. More than a million people were displaced. The orphanage crumbled.
Before the earthquake, the orphanage had planned to move. The children moved to the new location, which was nowhere near completion. For a while, they slept outside in tents and tarps as construction was eventually completed.
In the days and months after, Auguste says the children were traumatized, overwhelmed and confused. This was their third move in just two years. In 2018, they were displaced due to the flooding in the area of Gonaives.
Looking back on his childhood, Auguste says “growing up where we grew up, growing up in Haiti, sometimes you’re forced to grow up older, fast, faster than most students.”
He says he gained a sense of responsibility from those who surrounded him, including students and staff at the orphanage.
“I think it definitely had a huge part in just helping us understand, helping us cope or just having something to look forward to. Just having hope and keeping hope and just finding joy in the middle of such a traumatic experience.”
To Auguste, hope is everything.
“Sometimes you don’t know what’s next and you just need something to look forward to. It definitely helped me through and it definitely helped a lot of other Haitians through those difficult situations.”
After the earthquake, Auguste went on to graduate from high school. He was admitted to a community college in Minnesota and then transferred to Auburn University in Alabama.
In 2018, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international business. One year later, he completed his Master in Science in Information Systems Management.
This Tuesday, Auguste started a new job with a software company in Oklahoma. He says it’s not something he could have ever dreamed would happen. To see so many doors open and all the opportunities he’s had, is something he’s grateful for.
“I never would have thought that I would have graduated with an undergrad degree and then a graduate degree.”
Hope is something he also has for his home country.
“I definitely still believe that a change will come. It may be slow. But I do think a time will come where everyone, the Haitians, they will put their heads together and they’ll realize that the change is up to them.”