By John Ceravino
Carline Cham was watching the news with her mother on Jan. 12, the day the massive 7.0 scale earthquake hit the island of Haiti.
“We just sat in awe of the news that was coming in,” said Cham, a senior at Mercy College and acting Vice President for the Lions Club.
“We have a lot of family out there; we just prayed and prayed for them,” the Mercy College student said.
Once they were able to get in contact with those family members, the news went from bad to worse. Cham’s cousin, Beatrice Cham, was attending college in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck. She was unable to escape the building as it fell to the ground.
“It’s so sad,” said Cham, “She was only 25 years-old. She had her whole life ahead of her.”
As the week progressed the news only worsened. Another cousin, Sheirly Cham, died in her home alongside her son. Their home was in the country’s capitol, Port-au-Prince, where they felt all of the devastating effects.
“I remember first visiting Haiti; the heat was intense,” said Cham. “Even though the country is so poor I reveled in the beauty of the land and its people.”
She recalls being young and sleeping on the roof of her aunt’s home as they watched the passing planes fly overhead. It was the same home that had collapsed in the quake. She worries about the remains of the victims that are littered all over the streets.
“The problem still remains,” she said. “There are bodies in mass graves or in the debris and they are unable to receive a proper burial.”
Many of the deceased have been buried together in mass graves. Some simply have been covered with a sheet or cardboard. In a press release, The National Funeral Directors Association urged for the Haitian government to allow groups such as themselves and others around the world to come in and help unite the families with the remains of their loved ones.
“The Haitian government has taken control of the mortuary response in Haiti and has neither asked for nor authorized assistance from any government or private organization…We believe the people of Haiti deserve better,” the release stated.
It is not uncommon for Haiti to refuse American relief efforts as they have accepted and rescinded efforts over the years. Members of the NFDA have previously helped after Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Asia and other natural disasters. They are worried for the American citizens who will never be identified as well as the Haitian people with the same fate.
As for Cham and the rest of her family, they will never get the courtesy of a proper burial for their fallen family members. Though still in mourning, she has taken pride in seeing her people come together and she remains hopeful for the future of Haiti.
“I know that this earthquake and the aftershock has shaken this country, but I don’t think that they will let this shake their spirits.”