Haitian family reflects on eight year anniversary of deadly earthquake
COLUMBIA - Haitian Americans marked the anniversary of earthquake that devastated their homeland eight years ago, killing more than 200,000 people.
Their day of remembrance were overshadowed by President Trump's derogatory comments toward the historically impoverished island nation and other countries.
Cliton Seide has been living in the United States on a student visa for the past six months. He is working on earning his PhD. in linguistics from the University of Missouri.
He said he is no longer surprised by the president's comments.
"We are a proud people," Seide said. "Our country does have struggles, but who doesn't. Haiti is a wonderful place."
Seide was in Port-au-Prince the day of the earthquake. His entire school was destroyed. Only he and six others survived.
"It was horrible," Seide said. "It's really not even something that I like to talk about."
Seide said, given the timing, the presidents remarks were especially disturbing.
Trump was reported to have said Thursday, "Why are we having all these people from s------e countries come here?"
Word of those remarks came from people at a meeting where Trump rejected a bipartisan deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
In all, over 440,000 people are currently living in the United States who were previously protected by DACA. The Trump administration has hinted it will not extend the program.
Trump has since denied he made the inflammatory comments.
He tweeted Friday, saying, "The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language I used. Never said anything derogatory about Haitians, other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country."
The United States is currently home to more than 500,000 Haitian immigrants, according to the latest census.
Haiti was shattered by the 2010 earthquake and received billions of dollars from both the U.S. government and private donors.
Seide's son was born in the U.S., but Seide plans to move his family home as soon as he graduates. He hopes to help improve the quality of life in his native country through education.
"In order to advance as a people, it will take a united group. Money from foreign countries can only do so much" Seide said. "There are a lot of Haitians around the world that are well-educated. We must participate in the education of the country, to educate the people and to create jobs, infrastructure, so you can live better."
Seide said the people of Haiti are generally very welcoming, but if Trump visited, that may not be the case.