Haitians turned locals speak out about quake
"The little feet, the little feet." It's a phrase Sandra Siano's sister-in-law couldn't stop repeating last week.
"She was in shock," Siano said.
Siano's sister-in-law was one of the thousands in Haiti when the earthquake hit and the images of the dead haunted her, even when she reached Miami, Fla.
A thousand miles away from the island, Siano, a Haiti native, felt the blow here in the High Country.
"The first week I couldn't even finish a sentence," she said.
Siano and her husband, Gaetano Siano, moved from Haiti four years ago and run the Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis.
The pair was on hand at a reception for a Haitian art raffle at Black Bear Books in Boone to benefit Red Cross efforts in Haiti.
"My uncle called me and said, 'Hey, turn on your TV,'" Gaetano Siano said.
Siano didn't have a TV and had to rely on the Internet to get information about his hometown of Port-au-Prince.
"I came in from the gym," his wife said. "A regular day, and he told me."
It wasn't until she saw photographs on the news that she realized how bad it was.
"We couldn't reach anybody," she said.
Finally, thanks to social media sites like Facebook, she was able to determine her family was safe.
"[Gaetano's] brothers lost their businesses," she said.
"You can always rebuild that stuff later on," Gaetano said.
As for her friends, she still hasn't been able to reach many of them.
When talking about Haiti, both Gaetano and Sandra keep returning to the word "devastating."
"The Haitian people are very proud people," Sandra said. "Throughout all the things we have been through you'll never see a Haitian cry."
"They need someone to guide them to move forward," Gaetano said.
That's where local efforts come in.
"We were looking for a way to do something that might be a little more dramatic," Blowing Rock art collector John Schoo said.
Schoo teamed up with Black Bear Books and the local branch of the American Red Cross to raffle off a piece of his collection: a Haitian painting to benefit relief efforts.
"What we're really trying to do is make this go viral," Schoo said.
Sonny Sweet, director of the Watauga chapter of the American Red Cross, said orders for tickets were coming in from as far as Hilton Head Island.
"It has the potential to be a great fundraiser," Sweet said.
"It's touching to see it... [Watauga] is so far away from Haiti, and they're all pulling their weight," Sandra said.
Raffle tickets are available at Black Bear Books and through the Watauga County Chapter of the American Red Cross until March 1. For more information, call ARC at (828) 264-8226.
Sandra Siano said Haitian-based relief organizations also need help and hopes people will check out http://www.sowaseedonline.org.
The Sianos are also raffling off tickets for Mast Farm Inn gift certificates and collecting items at the Inn to send directly to Haiti. For more information, contact the Inn at (828) 963-5857.