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a506: TRAGEDY STRIKES A HAITIAN FAMILY IN WASHINGTON (fwd)
By Theola Labbe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 27, 2002; Page C04
Genevive Floristal fretted, like most mothers, about the safety of her
children -- her two eldest growing up in her native Haiti and the young son
and daughter she lived with in Adelphi.
When fire broke out Friday afternoon at her apartment on 19th Avenue,
firefighters said, she ran out with her 4-year-old son and went back into the
heat and smoke for her 3-year-old daughter.
"She died for her children," said a co-worker, Anne Joseph.
Firefighters found Floristal and her daughter unconscious together in the
apartment. Rescuers revived them both, but Floristal died of cardiac arrest
at a hospital.
Her daughter remained at Children's Hospital in critical condition yesterday,
a spokeswoman said. Her son was treated and released Friday.
Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George's Fire Department, said yesterday
that the fire started in the living room of the second-floor apartment and
may have been caused by a child playing with matches. The investigation is
continuing, he said.
Floristal, 42, worked as an inserter at The Washington Post's College Park
printing plant. Workers remembered her yesterday as a spirited colleague who
brought joy to the rote task of stuffing one section of the newspaper inside
another for $6.45 an hour.
"She would work very quickly," said Leveille Bernadette, who sometimes stood
alongside Floristal on the assembly line.
The shifts began at 2 a.m. and lasted as late as 9:30 a.m, depending on the
day. On Sundays, Floristal would go home to rest after work but would always
wake up for church, her co-workers said.
Floristal lived with her boyfriend and their two children in Adelphi.
Her older children lived with their father in Mirbalais, a small town outside
Haiti's bustling capital of Port-au-Prince. Floristal came to the United
States on a work permit about seven years ago, her co-worker said, and it had
been that long since she had seen her eldest children.
"She wondered if they were eating, if they had money for clothes, if they
were hanging out with the wrong kind of people," Bernadette said, speaking in
But even as she spoke of her worries and her longing to be reunited with her
children, Floristal kept her high spirits, said Rose Francois, a co-worker
and friend who told her about the job at the printing plant. Floristal worked
there for about two years, her co-workers said.
"She was a good person, a good friend," Francois said.
Jean A. David, a mailroom helper at the plant, said Floristal was the kind of
person who would put a hand on someone to ask, "Why do you look so unhappy
"She was a very nice lady," David said.
The family has set up an account at SunTrust bank for those who find it in
their heart to help them. THE CHERIZA FAMILY FUND ACCOUNT # 704731797....
Little Alexander Cheriza survived the fire his mother was able to get him out
his sister remains in critical condition at Children's hospital... Everything
the little boy had is gone we are starting a clothing and toy drive for him
and his sister.