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Miami Parish Helps With Online Memorial for Earthquake Victims
By
Tom Tracy
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, October 28, 2010
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MIAMI (CNS)—As thousands gathered to kick off to a spiritual revival week at Notre Dame d'Haiti Church in Miami, Nadege Charles, a parishioner and local print journalist, searched for family or friends of Haiti earthquake victims.

Charles, a reporter for The Miami Herald, joined other volunteers who staffed an information booth Oct. 18 during Notre Dame's Jericho spiritual renewal week promoting an online project called the Haiti Memorial Database.

Volunteers from the newspaper hope to fill an information void following the Jan. 12 earthquake by gathering names of those killed in the disaster and honoring their memory. Internet users can find the project online and enter names of earthquake victims, upload photos or write messages in memoriam to loved ones. The site is www.miamiherald.com/haiti/memorial.

Names also are being collected by Herald staff in Haiti, as well as through Facebook.

"I had the idea to come here to the church, and I will be here several nights this week and on Sunday," said Charles, holding paperwork with names and information about the deceased.

In its eighth year, the revival event at Notre Dame d'Haiti attracts Haitian-Americans from around the South Florida region and beyond, including Haiti. More than 50 earthquake fatality reports were collected in the first several hours at Notre Dame d'Haiti.

"I find that nine months later that loss from the earthquake is still there. One lady here told us a stepson killed in the earthquake was wrapped up in a blanket and thrown into a hole.
She said, 'Thank you for taking his name down because we have nothing to remember him by,'" Charles said.

Although an estimated 300,000 may have perished in the Haiti earthquake, "we are finding out the names are still unknown as a lot of people are not sure if a specific person is living or dead," Charles said, adding she keeps a stack of the memorial forms with her at all times.

Notre Dame's pastor, Father Reginald Jean-Marie, announced the Haiti Memorial Database project to his congregation from the church pulpit, encouraging church members to participate.

The announcement prompted yet more parishioners to come forward, including Joyce Jennings, who said she lost her father, sister, cousins and others in the quake.

"The problem is that the day after the quake somebody picked them up and they were taken to the mass graves outside of Port-au-Prince," Jennings said. "They are part of my life, very important to me, and I am still in pain. Bu if God did this, then I can't question God."

The Miami Herald's assistant world editor for Latin America, Nancy San Martin, is credited with the idea behind what she calls the cyber-memorial—an idea that came to fruition during a newsroom brainstorming session at the daily newspaper arguably most connected to Haiti outside that country.

"We hope to project the names somewhere at the screening of our documentary film on the earthquake in order to bring some recognition to the names, not just statistics," she said.

"Nou Bouke" ("We Are Tired") is the name of the Miami Herald Media Co.'s first documentary film and will air on many PBS networks Jan. 13.

The title comes from words scrawled on the walls of ruined buildings throughout Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. It also will premiere Jan. 12 at a cultural center in Miami's Little Haiti.


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