SANTA CLARA — As the sun set Wednesday evening, 49ers defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois was still waiting for a phone call that would bring news of relatives feared lost in Tuesday's earthquake that devastated Haiti's capital city.
Jean-Francois said he got one call from his older brother, Velhomme, 28, who lives in Port-au-Prince. But he hadn't heard about his grandmother and cousins who also live in the city of two million residents.
"I tell my friends that it's like 9/11 over there for them," said Jean-Francois, who grew up in Miami after his father emigrated there from Haiti in the mid 1970s. "Even the presidential palace is down."
Jean-Francois' anguish was shared by millions of Americans with ties to Haiti, including a small fraternity in the NFL. Detroit has three players of Haitian descent: defensive end Cliff Avril, tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety Louis Delmas.
Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who is preparing for a playoff game Saturday, was born in Carmel, N.Y., but most of his relatives still live in Haiti.
In the NBA, Philadelphia 76ers center Samuel Dalembert, who grew up in Haiti, told ESPN.com he has been able to reach his father, but others are left unaccounted for.
"I can only imagine what people there are going through," he said. "It's really killing me right now. ... It's unthinkable. Imagine all the people just inside, and the building just collapses."
Jean-Francois said that his brother told him the earthquake dislodged a ceiling fan, which he had to dodge as he scrambled out of his house onto the street. Many of the houses in his neighborhood collapsed.
"In Haiti, everything is made out of cement," Jean-Francois said. "There are barely any houses left standing."
Garcon said he planned to travel to Haiti in April with his charitable organization, the Pierre Garcon Foundation. Soon after the earthquake struck on Tuesday, he began using his Twitter account to ask fans for help.
Jean-Francois, one of the most charismatic 49ers and a favorite in the team's locker room, also has been urging others to help. He noted the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl will be played in Miami early next month, and he planned to rally support for Haiti at that time.
"They're on their knees crying for support," Jean-Francois said. "We need the world."
Read Matthew Barrows' archives and blogs at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers