INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – Indianapolis Colts receiver Pierre Garcon waited for word as his mother frantically tried to reach relatives in Haiti on Wednesday.
Three days before what is expected to be his first career NFL playoff game, Garcon was without his trademark smile.
“Aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews. We still have not heard much from them, and my mom is still trying to call them,” Garcon said. “I’m keeping in contact with my mom. It’s tough to get in touch with people down there because of the phone lines.”
Garcon and other athletes of Haitian descent were devastated by the powerful earthquake that struck the capital of Port-au-Prince on Tuesday and is feared to have killed thousands — perhaps more than 100,000.
“I heard from my father and got an e-mail he was OK. That was a relief,” Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert said. “There are so many other people I don’t know about, relatives and friends. I’m getting new information all the time. It’s just really hard.”
The 76ers planned a moment of silence and the organization is in the process of assembling funds, team spokesman Mike Preston said.
“It’s kind of hard to fathom a situation like this because those people didn’t do anything wrong,” Dalembert said. “It’s so hard to watch the TV. I feel helpless.”
The parents of WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto are from Haiti, and he has many relatives on the island.
“Like many other Haitian-Americans, my family and I are working to reach my loved ones,” Berto said. “From what we have learned to this point, some of my family members are still missing, and we have already been informed that members of my family have passed away in the earthquake.”
Berto fought for Haiti at the 2004 Athens Olympics after barely missing the U.S. team. He’s scheduled to face Sugar Shane Mosley on Jan. 30 in Las Vegas in the biggest bout of the undefeated fighter’s pro career, but his training was interrupted by the tragedy.
Berto (25-0, 19 KOs) has been heavily involved in charity work and relief efforts in Haiti for years. He’s working on another charity initiative to help Haiti’s recovery from his training camp in Winter Haven, Florida.
On his Twitter account, Berto wrote: “Haiti is the first black republic since 1804. Haitians are strong, powerful, prideful people but this a tough blow (to) endure,” and “My heart bleeds for my people.”
New Orleans Saints rookie linebacker Stanley Arnoux worried about his half sister Esmeralda Arnoux, 7, and half brother Pascal Arnoux, 5, who both live in Haiti.
“I’ve just been trying to gain as much information through TV and the Internet, but as far as like, family, no one’s able to contact them,” Arnoux said.
Garcon was a second-year Colts player who was born in Carmel, New York and attended high school in Florida. But his parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti and most of his relatives still live there. Garcon said there are too many to count.
Last season, Garcon went back to Haiti for his grandmother’s funeral, and he planned to return in April with his charitable organization, the Pierre Garcon Foundation.
But when the 7.0-magnitude quake struck, devastating one of the world’s poorest nations, Garcon changed the plan. Instead of waiting until spring, Garcon jumped onto his Twitter account and started asking fans for help.
At one point, he tweeted: “We need the US military as soon as possible n haiti We need the 4 million Haitian that live out side of haiti to Act now, we need da world!”
Garcon’s Colts joined the cause by announcing they will donate $10,000 to the American Red Cross relief effort.
Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong foundation pledged $250,000 to Partners in Health and Doctors Without Borders, and the World Series champion New York Yankees announced they were donating $500,000 to aid rescue and relief efforts.
As he prepares for Saturday’s playoff game against Baltimore, Garcon intends to use the NFL’s stage as a pulpit to seek more assistance in the recovery effort.
“That (Twitter) is how we got the pictures out, the word out; that’s been really helpful,” Garcon said. “Spreading the word and helping others is really what it’s all about, and this is the best situation to do that now.”
Coach Jim Caldwell and teammates offered their support, help and prayers for Garcon, who was coming off a breakout season and was expected to play on Saturday despite missing the last two games with a bruised hand.
“It’s hard, not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said. “The rebuilding process is going to take forever.”