Not everyone gets a second chance at life, but having survived an apocalyptic earthquake in his hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2010, Richard Laurent has been given just that.
And he’s not squandering it.
Now 19, Laurent is a senior at Northeast High School. He is a straight-A student in the classroom and is a vital member of the Vikings’ soccer program.
“He’s a very nice kid, very well-mannered,” said Northeast soccer coach Sam Feldman, who also has taught Laurent in his physical-education class. “He’s guarded. He’s seen a lot of things that we haven’t seen. He works hard. He takes his studies very seriously. He wants to make something of himself here.”
Laurent left Port-au-Prince to live with relatives in Philadelphia in February 2010, less than one month after surviving an earthquake that the United States Geological Survey has called the strongest in Haiti since 1770.
The 7.0-magnitude quake struck on Jan. 12, 2010, just before 5 p.m. Its epicenter was just 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince; the earthquake killed 316,000 people, and 1.5 million others were homeless. Almost 200 government buildings and nearly all of the city’s schools were destroyed.
“I thought it was the end. I just ran as fast as I could,” Laurent recalled. “I was on a soccer field when it happened. I was playing with friends. Everyone ran. I was trying to get in touch with my family, with my father and my mother. I had to see if they were OK.”
Laurent’s family, including his parents, his brother Lully and his sister Valerie, were unharmed. He and his siblings are living with an aunt in Northeast Philadelphia. His parents, Villeva leix and Jean Laurent, still live in Haiti.
“I’m trying to go home for vacation in December,” said Laurent. “They come here for vacation in the summer,” he added, referring to his parents.
Laurent says his transition to America has been relatively smooth. He’s happy at his new home and school. The senior is acing all of his classes at Northeast High. He plans to attend college, and eventually medical school, with hopes of becoming a doctor like his father.
Although school is his priority, Laurent is flourishing as well on the soccer field. This is his first year playing for the Vikings’ varsity squad — he helped the junior varsity team go undefeated last season — but he already has built a solid reputation.
“He’s a very diligent worker and always tries his hardest,” said Feldman. “This is his first year as a varsity player. We’re getting the best out of him.”
Laurent netted a hat trick in the Vikings’ 9-2 victory over Frankford High School on Sept. 21. The victory gave Northeast a 6-1 record.
ldquo;It felt great. Today was my day,” Laurent said after last week’s triumph. “It was a pretty good game. We were confident, but it’s going to be a long season. We’re going to try to win it all.”
The Vikings continued their winning ways on Monday by beating Prep Charter, 4-0. Senior sweeper Kevin Kureta had two goals; sophomore forward Jorge Chavez and Laurent scored the other two.
The Vikings’ next match was slated for Wednesday against Bartram, the defending Public League champion. The game, played after the Times went to press this week, represented a rematch of last year’s title game.
“I knew that we would be good,” Feldman said of this year’s soccer season. “I’d like to see us score a little more, but I think we’ll be there at the end.” ••
Editor Melissa Yerkov can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org