Posted: 9:48 am Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Haitian basketball player Michael Pinard’s two weeks of hell 

By Jason Lieser

The words dropped flatly from Michael Pinard’s lips: “I know my cousin’s dead.”

His voice did not waver. It is simply a fact of his situation right now.

Pinard, a Royal Palm Beach basketball player who moved here from Port-au-Prince, Haiti last April, said he still has six relatives unaccounted for after a devastating earthquake that hit his hometown Jan. 12.

Roughly 15 percent of Palm Beach County residents are Haitian, the largest foreign-born piece of the population, and thousands of them are just like Pinard: horrified, depressed and still waiting for the comfort of a phone call saying somebody is all right.

Pinard, a senior forward for the Wildcats, discovered news of the Haiti earthquake while searching the internet two weeks ago.

“It was very bad,” Pinard said before his team’s game at Boca Raton on Tuesday. “I felt very sad. I was scared. I’ve got no communication with my family. I don’t really know if my family’s OK.”

For two days, Pinard heard nothing from his family. He didn’t sleep that first night. He gutted out two days of school, but was absent from basketball practice.

He lives in western Palm Beach County with his mother, who took the news even harder than he did.

“She’s very, very sad,” Pinard said. “She still can’t sleep.”

Mercifully, phone calls and e-mails made it to Pinard and there was joy when he heard of relatives who made it through the earthquake, which registered a 7.0 on the moment magnitude scale and could affect 3 million people.

Still, it is hard for him to celebrate those survival stories when there are so many missing.

“I keep hoping,” Pinard said.

Pinard has become somewhat of a symbol for Royal Palm Beach High’s “Pack the Pod” effort. The school has a large container for donations to the Haiti relief effort and will be accepting non-perishable food items at Friday’s basketball game against Jupiter.