Anne Arundel County

Marylander loses two children to quake

Moise Larose, a Maryland father of seven children, had just left the grocery store and was driving down a dusty road in his native country of Haiti when the earthquake hit.

His car began shifting uncontrollably. He watched prominent buildings crumble to the ground. Larose, a sergeant in the U.S. Army Reserves based at Fort Meade, dialed his cell phone, trying in vain to reach his wife and his children on Jan. 12 when a catastrophic earthquake destroyed the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, killing tens of thousands.

Hours later, when he returned to his ex-wife's home where two of his children were visiting their mother in Carrefour, south of the capital, everyone inside the flattened house was dead, including his daughter, Willermine "Deborah" Larose, 11, a sixth-grader at MacArthur Middle School, and his son, Moise "Philippe" Larose, 9, a third-grader at Manor View Elementary School, both in Anne Arundel County.

"I started calling their names, 'Moise! Deborah!' " the father said Wednesday, back home at Fort Meade. "Nobody responded to me. I went to get a flashlight. I saw the floor completely disappeared. … Neighbors came to help me dig. But there was nothing."

Larose said Deborah and Philippe's mother was among the dead. His wife and other children were staying at another house and were safe.

WJZ-TV, The Baltimore Sun's media partner, first reported the deaths of the children.

Anne Arundel County school officials sent home letters to parents Tuesday informing the school community of the deaths of Deborah and Philippe and offering counseling services to faculty and students.

Deborah and Philippe's brothers and sisters, who have different mothers, also attend Anne Arundel schools.

Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said, "We are deeply saddened by the news that two of our students have been lost in the earthquake. The pain the Larose family is going through is simply unimaginable."

Larose, who was born in Haiti but moved to Maryland in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen shortly after, said he has hired a Haitian rescue team to retrieve his children's bodies for burial. He and his wife and surviving children left the badly battered country after the disaster for safety, but he plans to return to bury his children. He said the family will hold a memorial service at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the main chapel at Fort Meade.

"I can't even count how many people [in our family] we got dead," Larose said. "It's crazy."

Philippe, he said, was a "genius," making honor roll and excelling in math and science. He wanted to be an astronaut. Deborah, like many girls her age, began dabbling in fashion, dreaming one day of becoming a stylist, her father said.

Larose, his wife and seven children had traveled to Haiti on Jan. 11, the day before the earthquake struck, to hold a funeral for Larose's father, who said in his will he wanted to be buried in his homeland.

Deborah and Philippe, like all of Larose's children, were born in Haiti but are U.S. citizens. The children often visited Haiti, with Deborah and Philippe spending summers with their mother.

Melita Jefferson, 28, a neighbor and friend of the Larose family, sobbed as she spoke of Deborah and Philippe. Jefferson's children and the Larose children often played together.

"I didn't want to believe it," said Jefferson, who, with her Marine husband, has lived at Fort Meade since 2005. "They were such beautiful children. It's hard to watch a country go through this, but it's even more difficult to watch a family, that's my family, go through it."