Monday marked more than just the first day of spring semester classes for students. It was also the day that five years ago, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, leaving despair and destruction behind.
To remember the lost lives and honor the hope that arose from the disaster, the University of Miami’s Haitian student organization, Planet Kreyol, organized a remembrance ceremony.
The event began with a moment of silence at the Rock at 4:53 p.m., the exact time the earthquake hit five years ago. Nearly 100 attendees then moved to the Student Activities Center (SAC) ballrooms to hear from notable speakers such as Mayor Tomás Regalado of the City of Miami and to participate in a candlelight vigil.
“Tonight we take times off our schedules to honor the lives that were lost and to commemorate the progress that has been made to restore hope in our beautiful country of Haiti,” said sophomore Agenia Delouche, public relations chair for Planet Kreyol, in her opening remarks at the ceremony.
According to Guerdiana Thelomar, president of Planet Kreyol, it is important to remember that there is more to Haiti than the disaster left behind by the earthquake, something speakers drew attention to during the event.
“We wanted to let people know that Haiti is more than the rubble and disaster and disparity and that there’s hope,” Thelomar said. “Tonight we showed the projects that people have been working on in the university and the community.”
Miami represents one of the largest Haitian populations outside of Haiti and according to Mayor Regalado, Port-au-Prince’s status as a ‘sister city’ means that Miami is the leading place in the United States for providing support to the Haitian people.
The University of Miami has been involved with Haiti prior to the earthquake and sent representatives from the Miller School of Medicine to the island after the disaster.
“Five years ago today the nation of Haiti was changed when it was ripped apart by the devastating earthquake that killed over 220,000 people,” said Sergio Gonzalez, vice president for University Advancement and External Affairs during his speech. “Prior to the 2010 earthquake the university had a longstanding and very strong relationship with Haiti and its people, so since that day, faculty, staff, students and alumni representing all areas of this institution have provided extraordinary service of all types to help the Haitian people.”
To commemorate the enduring relationship between UM and Haiti, a memorial construction has been approved. The project will begin in May and will be created by Haitian artist Pascale Monnin, whose work is featured in the Lowe Art Museum. The university hopes to raise a total of $25,000 in funds for the project by commissioning Haitian artists and reproducing their work for sale.
“As students in general, I believe what happened that day impacted people all over the world,” Thelomar said. “We saw a lot of lives being lost and a lot of lives being saved, so it is an important time to reflect not only about what happened in Haiti but also about life itself because life is short and you never know when your time is up.”
Correction Notice: This story has been updated to reflect that 220,000 people were killed in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.