Survivor of deadly 2010 Haiti earthquake becomes U.S. citizen

Bethlie Paul was 10-years-old when a school building collapsed on her and her classmates in Haiti.

SAN ANTONIO – “I heard this loud roar, but thundering but roaring. It was weird. And next thing I knew, I was on the ground and the ceiling was about this far away from my face,” Bethlie Paul described, with her hand close to her face.

We’ve followed Bethlie Paul’s story for more than a decade, ever since the then 10-year-old came to the United States from Haiti.

Sitting down with Paul, it’ll take only a minute before her bubbly personality and glowing spirit make you laugh.

“What’s one word to describe me? Adventurous, I guess,” Paul said.

Paul’s young life has been nothing short of a wild ride -- she’s worked as a flight attendant, traveling to new places. She has attended San Antonio College and UTSA to study psychology.

“I like giving to people, like helping others,” she explained.

And she lived through a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti that took the lives of 220,000 people. She nearly lost her leg after being crushed and was trapped for hours in her school.

When she was finally freed, Paul said the look on her mom’s face stuck with her.

“That’s when the moment I knew that I didn’t know what was going to happen in my life. I did not know what was next,” Paul said as her voice broke. “Sorry...I can’t.”

Her life was saved by doctors at Christus Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital and she was taken in for two years by a familiar face...Steve Spriester and his family.

“It feels good to have not just one set of family, but two sets of family cheering for me,” Paul said.

Paul’s mother and father are with her now in San Antonio. Her brother Leo was born here.

“He’s seven, is my favorite person in the whole, entire world. Cannot live without that dude,” she said.

The two families, the Spriesters and the Pauls, cheered Bethlie on as she became a U.S. citizen Friday.

“I’m the first American in the whole family who went through the process. And now my mom is motivated to go through the process,” Paul said.

This is just the latest chapter in her adventure of life.

“I am Bethlie. I am Haitian. I am American. I am silly. I am corny. I am someone who absolutely loves other people,” Paul said.

As far as what’s next for Bethlie, she wants to go back to being a flight attendant while she finishes her degree.

In the future, she’d like to open up her own holistic clinic with medical techniques from around the world to help people in whatever way they need.

About the Authors

Leigh Waldman is an investigative reporter at KSAT 12. She joined the station in 2021. Leigh comes to San Antonio from the Midwest after spending time at a station in Omaha, NE. After two winters there, she knew it was time to come home to Texas. When Leigh is not at work, she enjoys eating, playing with her dogs and spending time with family.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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