Dumas Simeus, who was a Haitian presidential candidate in 2005, is painfully aware of just how desperate the situation in his native country is.
He and his wife, Kimberly, have been trying around the clock to call relatives and colleagues in Haiti around since the earthquake hit Tuesday.
Most calls don't connect, but they got a lucky break when a cousin answered the phone on one call. The connection only lasted 30 seconds, but Simeus learned that his 91-year-old mother and many other relatives are OK.
"I heard my mom say, 'Give me my son,' but then we got disconnected," Simeus said.
He said it was enough to put his mind at ease. But he still has many fears for his country, he said.
"I knew right away that the thing was much worse that what we were seeing on television," Simeus said.
He has been in touch with other Haitian natives who live in the United States, and he said they all share a sense of disbelief.
"This disaster is unbelievable. What have we done to deserve this?" he said. "In other words, everybody is at a loss for words. It's like, 'Why us?' The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere that can least sustain something like this."
Simeus said many of his relatives were at the family compound in a village north of the capital. Their homes, including the tiny building he was born in, are still intact. The clinic supported by the charitable organization he founded was also undamaged.
But he does not know the fate of two young relatives who lived with his mother in Port-au-Prince, a city he said he believes may not recover.
"You've seen the devastation on TV, with the weak infrastructure that we have, we have an overpopulated city that was built for 200,000 people and now you have over 2 million people," he said. "I do not see the rebuilding of Port-au- Prince as a practical matter."
Simeus said the best way to help Haitians right now is by donating to organizations such as the Red Cross.
Donations are also being accepted by Simeus' organization, Sove Lavi, which means "saving lives" in Haitian Creole. It has helped poor Haitians get medical care through a clinic in Simeus' home village, and he said the group is now helping with this latest disaster.