A new beginning

After sur­viv­ing Haiti’s earth­quake in 2010, Richard Laurent moved to Phil­adelphia. He’s a straight-A stu­dent at North­east High School and a starter on the Vik­ings’ varsity soc­cer squad.

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 my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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