Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Mill Creek senior soccer player Waldyr Pierre-Louis practices with his teammates. Pierre-Louis fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake with his sister to live with his aunt in Hoschton.
HOSCHTON -- Waldyr Pierre-Louis was at school when the ground shook.
"It was pretty bad, pretty scary," Pierre-Louis said.
It was the middle of his freshman year of high school, his parents were almost done building a new house and he had just started playing organized soccer. But when the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, everything changed for Pierre-Louis.
"Everything was destroyed," he said.
The new house: crumbled. His school: gone. Not that those things mattered.
"Afterwards you just don't know what to do. I was just trying to reach my mom and dad. It was pretty intense," Pierre-Louis said. "Luckily, my mom and dad could walk to the school. My family was OK. No one got hurt."
Forced to rebuild their lives, Pierre-Louis's parents sent him and his sister, Wenaelle, to live with his aunt in Hoschton, sending him to Mill Creek. They came with some other cousins, packing the house with 11 total people. Some are in college now, loosening up the home a bit.
"We are fine right now," Pierre-Louis said.
Shocked by the newness of the buildings and the "organization" of everything, Pierre-Louis adjusted quickly for a high schooler with a funny accent attending his first co-ed school.
"I was scared. I didn't want people to think I was weird with my accent or anything," said Pierre-Louis, who speaks French, Creole and English. "But I got used to it and people got used to me. (My accent) used to be pretty bad back when I came here."
He learned about football and basketball, but kept playing soccer.
In Haiti, Pierre-Louis learned soccer in the streets. There were few rules and he didn't join his first organized league until he was in eighth grade.
"It's more aggressive (in Haiti). People go at it non-stop," he said. "Honestly, I like it better here, it's more competitive. When you are so aggressive like that it's hard to (handle the ball) because people are going to foul you so hard. Here they have rules and everything."
A senior now, Pierre-Louis is a second-year varsity player for Mill Creek. He plays forward, uses his left foot well and can beat defenses with his speed.
"He's a hard worker on the soccer field," said his coach Sean Garnett. "He's got a lot of passion for it. He's a hard-nosed kind of guy."
He has interest from Piedmont College to continue playing soccer as he studies to be a physical therapist.
"I would love to play soccer in college," Pierre-Louis said.
And he loves playing in high school. After moving to Georgia, Pierre-Louis gave American club soccer a try for two years, but opted out eventually, preferring high school play.
"I just have one thing, to win," he said.
He talks to his parents often, keeping his French fresh. He misses them and his old home, but is happy to be at Mill Creek.
"I barely see them, but it's fine," he said. "It was worth it."