Framework

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Rony Guervil, 38, holds his son Kency, 5, as the sun starts to rise in Petionville, Haiti, on Jan. 15, the third day after the earthquake. The family took refuge in the park in front of St. Pierre Catholic Church, where hundreds of other people had also come after their houses were destroyed.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Guervil, with son Kency and longtime girlfriend Immacula Exilus, says he's grateful for what his family has despite the post-quake struggles. He works as a motorcycle taxi driver and makes less than half what he used to.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Many of the houses surrounding the Guervil family's home have been destroyed. At one damaged residence, a man hangs a shirt up to dry.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Kency looks out a bedroom window in the family's house outside Port-au-Prince. His parents' plan to build their own place has been put on hold.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Guervil catches Kency, who had slipped out the front door. He doesn't allow the boy to play outside because most of the area is unsafe.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Guervil climbs a rubble-strewn stairway in his Petionville neighborhood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Kency jumps on his parents' bed. His family returned home 10 days after the quake, but life is difficult. "There's not much traffic or money to be made, but we're surviving," his father says.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Haiti: Living in limbo – Clinging to dreams

In the days after the Haiti earthquake, Rony Guervil spent long hours cradling his son in the park where the family had fled. Months later, Times photographer Carolyn Cole found them again — home now, at a house perched incongruously on a ruined hillside.

Reporting from Petionville, Haiti — All Rony Guervil ever wanted was to earn enough money for a proper wedding.

Guervil and his girlfriend, Immacula Exilus, have been together for 11 years now. They have two boys, a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old, and live with Guervil’s mother in a concrete house that seems to defy the laws of physics as it clings to a ravine in the hills above Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital.

“When the earthquake happened, I immediately came back to the house and took my family to a safer place,” recalls Guervil, 38. “I didn’t know if something else was going to fall down.”

Hundreds of people crowded into a park seeking safer ground after the Jan. 12 quake. For the first week, there was no shelter, only the sound of singing and praying.

During those long hours, Guervil would sit and hold his younger son, Kency. “It was crowded and there was a lot of suffering going on,” he says. “I was thinking about the situation … and trying to figure out how I was going to get my family out.”

Ten days later, Guervil moved them back home. The house has little damage, but the view from the kitchen window is one of utter destruction. Houses to the left and right have fallen off the hill. It looks like a bulldozer went mad.

The gray concrete floors of the small living room are bare except for a few plastic chairs and a red rubber ball. “God did the best that he could for me and I am grateful for what I have received,” Guervil says. “My family is alive and well.”

Each morning, Guervil puts on a bright red helmet and lines up with at least 10 other taxi scooter drivers waiting their turn for a rider. Guervil can make $20 on a good day, above average for most Haitians, but he says he earns less than half what he used to. Many businesses remain closed, and his customers are out of work.

“There’s not much traffic or money to be made, but we’re surviving,” Guervil says. “My dream was to make enough to build a little house for my family and to finally have a real wedding,” he says.

He and Exilus were planning to get married in St. Pierre Catholic Church, across the street from the park where they took refuge and where thousands of people remain. “All of the plans we had have fallen to pieces,” he says.

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