Haitians mourn the dead and celebrate a miracle

2010-01-22 14:39

IN FRONT of a half-collapsed house in the hills of Port-au-Prince,

women slowly congregate, wreaths of white roses in hand.

The ruins of the building lean perilously, threatening to fall, and

somewhere beneath the heavy layer of rubble that was once the ground floor lay

the bodies of a woman and her 12-year-old daughter.

About 20 relations, friends and neighbours have gathered in the

ruins to bid them a final farewell.

Most of the mourners are wearing masks – flimsy barriers to the

acrid stench of rotting bodies that has become all too common in the city since

the devastating earthquake of January 12.

A brass band has been invited to play in honour of the dead, who

loved music.

The musicians, dressed in black and white, play tunes to comfort

the bereaved, the trumpeter Alexandre Kenel says. The band itself is in mourning

for “Jean-Claude, Leoman, Vadrice ...”

Widower Icare Garry, who was in Canada when the tragedy happened,

says the ceremony is a hymn to life as well as a funeral.

“We organised this because we could not get the bodies out but also

because a miracle happened.

 They found our three-month-old baby alive after

three days. My little boy – the neighbours pulled him out of an empty water tank

in the house. It was amazing. He’s a miracle baby.”

It is neighbour Joelle Jean-Baptiste who found the infant.

“I pressed my ear to the wall and I heard the baby going ‘waah,

waah’, so I went to get help,” she says.

Neighbourhood pastor Dieumeme Vaveillard joined the ceremony. The

young woman who died belonged to his parish and he took the widower in his


The pastor has suffered in the earthquake too – he lost loved ones

and his church collapsed along with the local school.

“I don’t need to tell you what I feel today,” he says before

inviting the group to pray.

A woman breaks down and weeps as the girl’s aunt, her feet in the

dust, says: “The good Lord will show the way.”

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