Light a candle for Haiti

[kml_flashembed movie=”” height=”437″ width=”602″ fvars=”xmlfile=″ base=”.” allowfullscreen=”true” wmode=”transparent” /]

President Donna E. Shalala joins the university community to show respect to the crisis in Haiti. Jessica Hodder // The Miami Hurricane

Senior Kristina Rosales and other members of Soley Ini arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Jan. 9, to work in the slum community known as Cité Soleil. The university-based project has sent students to the island nation for two years and works to establish community centers for the youth. On Jan. 12, she and senior Austin Webbert had just left a restaurant and had gotten into a car when the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck shortly before 5 p.m. 10 miles southwest of the capital city. “I felt this thing, I’ve been in a couple of car accidents, and that’s what it felt like immediately,” Webbert said. “We looked around and the whole earth was moving like jello and the building we had just left was collapsing. After the initial shock, the driver stepped on the accelerator and immediately after that the next building down had just collapsed.” According to the Haitian government more than 200,000 perished, and 80,000 were later buried in mass graves. A candlelight vigil was held at the University Center Rock Wednesday night in honor of last week’s earthquake victims. Junior Ronald Henri, who wore a Haitian flag during his speech, has family in Haiti. “To put this into perspective… In roughly one day as many people as the University of Miami undergraduate class was buried in mass graves,” he said. “The harsh reality is the suffering caused by this life-shattering catastrophe will never be completely comprehended.” Those in attendance included University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala and numerous local media outlets such as CBS 4 and WSVN 7. “I think it means a lot to have the students to join with their fellow students in grieving for those whose lives have been lost,” Shalala said. “We have at least a couple hundred Haitian students at the university, almost every single one of them has a family member or someone they knew who has been lost in this terrible tragedy.” Around 500 people attended the vigil, which began with the singing of the Haitian national anthem and a prayer. Representatives from both the Chaplain’s Association and Counseling Center were available to provide grief counseling. “We never thought an earthquake would hit Haiti; maybe a hurricane, maybe something else, but never an earthquake,” Rosales said. “It was very difficult to see chaos and disaster and how people reacted. We were trying to get to a secure and safe area. People were crying, hurt, they were very confused. Even though we’re not fluent Creole speakers, we understand some things. They were in disbelief. It was shocking.” Before the vigil, Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely attended the “Coming Together for Haiti Forum” that took place at the UM Fieldhouse. The event was co-hosted by the Center for Latin American Studies and the Haitian Student Organization. “Students have a rich legacy of helping others and the Haiti relief efforts is no exception,” she wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Hurricane. “Our students and administration are committed to doing everything possible to help the people of Haiti during the days ahead.” Throughout the semester these organizations as well as the Butler Center for Service and Leadership and Planet Kreyol will collect essential items, such as phone cards, and conduct fundraising events. “I think there has to be continuous aid, and there has to be some sort of way to reach out to areas that are not being reached out to right now,” Rosales said. “There’s a whole group of cities affected that are completely unreachable and you don’t know if aid is getting there.” Christina De Nicola may be contacted at Ramon Galiana contributed to this report.