- ABOUT THE EARTHQUAKE: Major quake hits Haiti; many casualties expected
- PHOTOS: Haiti Earthquake
- VIDEOS: Haiti Earthquake
- INTERACTIVE: Earthquakes - causes and consequences
- INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: Haiti earthquake
- SPECIAL SECTION: Get more coverage of the Haiti earthquake relief efforts in our special section
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Hope for Haiti
- Mission of Hope - Haiti
- American Red Cross
- Text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti
- World Harvest Mission
- Catholic Relief Services
- Contact Nesly Loute of the Haitian American Association of Southwest Florida at email@example.com or (239) 601-2023.
- Contact Angie Valentini of Helps Outreach at 239-273-2258 or visit them at 2025 J&C Boulevard in Naples.
- Text YELE to 501 501 and 5 dollars will go toward Wyclef Jean's Yele.org Haiti earthquake relief fund
- Americans concerned about family in Haiti can call the U.S. State Dept. for info: 1-888-407-4747
If you go
Another memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 at the First Haitian Baptist Mission of Naples, 14600 Tamiami Trail East in Naples.
NAPLES — A candlelight vigil at Clam Pass Beach on Wednesday reminded everyone of how the flame of hope still burns brightly for all who were affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti.
There were few dry eyes at the Hearts in Hospitality for Haiti Candlelight Vigil, which was hosted by the staff at the Naples Grande Beach Resort in honor of their more than 125 Haitian employees.
“I think that all the Haitians that are here lost one of their parents,” Rodrigue Richard said in French. Richard moved to Florida from La Cab, Haiti in 1977 and works in the engineering department at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. Richard said his uncle lost his wife and four children in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti last week.
Almost everyone in the crowd wore blue and red ribbon pins and held small candles to show their support and compassion for the Haitians. The red and blue ribbons represent the two main colors of the Haitian flag.
Rows of chairs were set up in the sugar sand facing a podium and a floral wreath with the Gulf of Mexico in the background. Peaceful, soothing music played in the background as the waves crashed on the shore.
Jean Leon, a Haitian who works in the laundry department at the Naples Grande, showed up early and waited for the vigil to start while some of his co-workers held their heads in their hands and wept quietly around him.
“This is a tragedy in my country,” said Jean Leon, who moved to the U.S. from Port-au-Prince 20 years ago. “I have a lot of family, (and) I cannot get through there to know if they are still alive or not. There’s only one thing you have to know, all the Haitian folk is a family too.”
Hunter Hansen, managing director of the Naples Grande Beach Resort, opened the vigil ceremony with some kind, compassionate words to his fellow co-workers.
“We’re here to show our support, our friendship, our love, our generosity and most importantly we want you to know that we’re your family,” Hansen said. “Our Haitian team members are really our family, and we want to reach out to them and let them know that we’re very compassionate, understanding and sympathetic of their loss.”
Reverend Frantz Matheus of the First Horeb Haitian Baptist Church in Lehigh Acres and Brother Kethler Claimon of the Philadelphia Baptist Church of Naples offered prayers and consoling, hopeful words to the more than 70 people that attended the vigil.
“When death comes into our lives, we’re always shocked, we’re always confused and we are always deeply shattered,” Matheus said in French Creole. “Death is not the end of life, but the end of one’s life on earth.”
Matheus, who lost a first cousin in the earthquake, urged the Haitians who attended the vigil not to dwell on the tragedy and to trust in God and his eternal wisdom.
“I just wanted to give them some words of encouragement because they’re not home,” said Matheus, who moved from Saint-Marc, Haiti to the U.S. in 1975. “They’re living over seas, and there’s really nothing they can do now. All we can do for our country now is pray and try to contribute and see how we can help it.”
Claimon said he always prays for positive changes to occur in Haiti, but that he could have never imagined something like the recent tragedy.
“Is this a possibility or a way for God to bless us? I don’t know,” Claimon said. “I keep praying and we have faith and we believe that God will provide change in every area of our country.”
The ceremony was organized and planned by the human resources and the marketing and communications departments at the Naples Grande Beach Resort. The candlelight vigil was held during daylight instead of at night so some of the employees would not miss their bus ride home that leaves every day at 5 p.m.
“We wanted to show support and provide some mental support through this devastating catastrophe that’s taken over in Haiti because it’s affecting a large variety of our team members here emotionally,” said Maria Burns, who works in the human resources department at the Naples Grande Beach. “It’s touching to them for this to take place.”
Burns said that she has noticed the impact the tragedy in Haiti has had on her fellow co-workers.
“You can see it in the cafeteria with their somber faces,” Burns said while suppressing tears. “The unknown is very powerful and not knowing if your family member is alive and not being able to reach them.”
Fichenet Lene, a waiter at the resort who moved from Port-au-Prince to the U.S. in 1984, said he is worried about his mother-in-law, who still lives in Haiti.
“I could not go to Haiti to get her,” Lene said. “It’s hurt my heart for my wife and her mother. She could not suffer more.”
Myriam Percian, who moved to the U.S. from Port-au-Prince when she was 12, consoled her friend and co-worker, Erlander Larose, who has tired to call her family members in Haiti because she hasn’t heard any news from them since the recent tragedy.
“Honestly, I just watch CNN News and all I see is a lot of people dying and a lot of houses destroyed,” Percian said. “It’s very sad, terrible.”
Percian, who works in the housekeeping department at the hotel, said that her immediate family, aunts and uncles live in the U.S., so she did not lose any loved ones in the earthquake.
“It still hurts me because they’re all human beings,” she said.