Guilla and Joseph Julien of Huntington know what a 7.0 earthquake feels like.

And they can describe what the aftermath looks like.

But as for the sound: "I cannot describe it," said Joseph Julien, 57.

>>PHOTOS: Newsday's Charles Eckert in Haiti | Frantic rescue effort in Haiti

When the quake struck Haiti last Tuesday, he was napping in a home the couple has in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince.

He said he was awakened by the sensation of his bed rising off the floor - then slamming back down.

"My bed jumped to the ceiling, maybe eight feet into the air. When I come down, I said 'Oh, my God.' "

After getting his bearings, he raced to the balcony, scooped up his 18-month-old niece and ordered everyone out of the house and into the streets, where the horror quickly became evident.

"It was happening so fast," he said. "In the distance I could see what I thought was smoke, but it was dust from the collapsing buildings."

Guilla Julien, 53, had been hosting a family gathering on her second story balcony.

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"I was thrown out of my chair to the left," she said through tears Monday. "If I had been thrown the other way, I would have been killed - thrown over the balcony."

The quake hit on the eve of the couple's return flight to LaGuardia Airport. Guilla, a nursing assistant at Huntington Hospital, and Joseph, a retired health care and maintenance worker, were in their native Haiti for an annual visit with relatives and to feed needy families for Haitian Independence Day.

Neither suffered injuries in the quake and on Wednesday - they drove to the airport. A trip that normally takes 15 minutes became a three-hour odyssey.

"I have never seen such destruction," said Joseph Julien, who emigrated from Haiti with his wife and eldest son in 1981. "Everywhere you looked. And the sound. I cannot describe it."

At the airport, they learned their flight had been canceled. They returned to Petionville on an alternate route through the countryside, where the full horror of the quake's devastation hit them.

 

Major earthquake hits Haiti

"The human beings in the street, on both sides," said Guilla Julien. "I could not believe what I was seeing: The school had collapsed, the dead children in the streets."

Even more horrifying were the screams of the children trapped in rubble and her inability to help them.

"I kept asking myself: Is this true?" Guilla Julien said. "Could such pain really be happening?"

Once in Petionville, Joseph Julien took on the grisly task of disposing of the dead. He began stacking bodies on the side of the road and placing them in dump trucks.

"It was so painful," said Joseph Julien. "But it had to be done."

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The scene was in stark contrast to the previous day spent in the company of relatives.

"It was a nice day, warm," Guilla Julien said Monday. "We were just talking, enjoying our time together."

But moments later she stood in the street, confused and crying, as the earthquake seemed to go on forever. The earth "was still moving," she said. "I kept yelling and it kept going."

On Friday, a cousin drove them to the U.S. Embassy outside Port-au-Prince where they were put into a convoy carrying U.S. citizens bound for the airport. They flew home Saturday.

>>PHOTOS: Newsday's Charles Eckert in Haiti | Frantic rescue effort in Haiti | Deadliest recent earthquakes

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>> LIVE: Twitter coverage of the scene in Haiti, from aid agencies, and reaction worldwide

>> VIDEOS: Latest videos from Haiti and on LI

>> MORE: Read more about LIers grieving and LI's efforts to help | Latest news from Haiti | Haiti's road to chaos: 2006 Newsday series

 


HOW TO HELP

* You can help immediately by texting "HAITI" to "90999" and a donation of $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill and given automatically to the Red Cross to help with relief efforts.

* Wyclef Jean, a rapper and hip-hop artist from Haiti, urged people to text "Yele" to 501501 to donate $5 toward earthquake relief. Yéle Haiti is a grassroots movement inspiring change in Haiti through programs in education, sports, the arts and environment, according to its Web site.

* The State Department Operations Center has set up the following number for Americans seeking information about family members in Haiti: 1-888-407-4747. The Red Cross has also set up a Web site to help family members find and contact relatives.

* You can also go online to organizations such as the Red Cross and MercyCorps to make a contribution to the disaster relief efforts.

The FBI warned Internet users to be wary of e-mail messages seeking donations in the aftermath of the quake. People who want to send money or assistance should contribute to known organizations and should be careful not to respond to unsolicited e-mails, officials said.

 

Other Web sites accepting donations include:

-Haitian Health Foundation
-Hope for Haiti
-UNICEF
-International Medical Corps
-Beyond Borders
-AmeriCares