PORT-AU-PRINCE -- They were the voices of reason and compromise in a country where words are often used as weapons of political warfare, where political turmoil is a chronic condition, like hardship and economic chaos.
And now these rising stars have been lost forever, swallowed in the rubble of the earthquake.
They were womens rights leaders, political militants, university professors, men of God. Their departure from the scene raises questions about the future of this nation, which has gone in and out of foreign occupation and struggled to stand on its own.
With many still unaccounted for, the news of every confirmed death is gripping the country, even bringing tears to the eyes of its leaders.
"Every time you hear another name, you cant help but feel it, said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who last week excused himself from a meeting with Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding, walked outside and broke down in tears.
Moments earlier, word was just making the rounds that Micha Gaillard, the university professor and firebrand political militant, who became known as the voice of the opposition during the movement to oust former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was dead.
Gaillard was attending a meeting at the ministry of justice when the earthquake hit. Despite attempts by the minister of justice, who spent hours digging through the rubble, he died, said Dr. Ariel Henry, a friend and fellow member of Fusion, the political party they helped form a few years ago.
Henry was among the last to speak to Gaillard during a 1:15 a.m. conversation Thursday during which Gaillard was joking about needing to eat.
"He was someone who was trying to be useful to the country. He had a commitment toward the change of this country, " said Henry.
Gaillard died three hours after their phone conversation.
"I cringe for the moment when cellphones are back up. Every moment, we will find someone who is dead, " said Gabriel Verret, an economist.
In recent days, local radio has been giving a roll call of some of the dead, numbering 70,000 and counting, according to government figures.
"Its clear that in this catastrophe, all kinds of individuals were victims. You find people in the bourgeoisie, in the middle class, in popular neighborhoods, in peasants communities who have died, said former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.
The one-time prime minister was not immune to Gaillards "shame on you" criticism on the radio during his tenure as head of the Haitian government, 2006-08.
"Its a huge blow when [the earthquake] takes away the human resources to help us to improve the governance of the country, to help us ensure that democracy is making huge progress in the country weve lost a lot, " Alexis said.
The loss, he said, extends to Haitians from the diaspora who were visiting last week. These, the middle-class Haitians who come here regularly, have been part of a vital lifeline to those struggling in Haiti.
"We have a good competence in the diaspora, " he said. "Were not trying to make one group more privileged than the other, but we have to recognize that in this particular framework, in the framework of the government, the framework to continue to promote democracy in the country, to do development, technology, scientific, weve suffered a huge loss.
Bellerive, the current prime minister, said he cant give an analysis of what has happened to the country, but acknowledged that the loss is immeasurable.
"Every moment you hear about a well-known, important Haitian figure who has died. You ask yourself, 'Why? " he told The Miami Herald. "I would like to think that we are going to learn something positive out of it, to help the country. Ive seen during this period and extraordinary solidarity, compassion that gives a bit of hope, it shows that we can work together. Its a good thing toward unity.
Among those who often called for unity was Archbishop Serge Miot. The face of the Catholic Church in Haiti, he was the mediator in times of crisis. He became well known to many Miamians and Aristide supporters when he stripped Haitian activist Gerard Jean-Juste of his priestly duties after Jean-Juste considered running for the presidency.
"For me its a personal pain because many of the personalities who died I personally knew, said Evans Paul, a former Port-au-Prince mayor.
Paul also knows Georges Anglade, the former Aristide minister of public works, who partly lived in Canada and was here with his wife, Mireille Neptune Anglade. She was a women's rights activist. Both died along with Phillipe Rouzier, a respected Haitian economist whose name had been mentioned as possible a prime minister contender over the years. Rouzier was Mireille Anglade's brother-in-law.
They died crushed under several layers of concrete roofs in a lush neighborhood of Port-au-Prince.
"He was a university professor, a demographer, who published a lot of books, Paul said of Georges Anglade, who was mayor of the city when Anglade was a minister of public works. "I used to work a lot with him.
In Miami and New York, fans of Haitian music are joining their Haitian brothers and sisters in mourning the loss of Joubert Charles, a promoter and manager who has worked with some of Haiti's leading konpa bands. For the past three years, he promoted the country's biggest konpa festival.
Marie Laurence Lassegue, the former minister of women's affairs, is wearing black for the loss of the feminists recently lost in the earthquake. They include Anne-Marie Carolian, a sociologist who studied in Mexico, and Gina Porcena, a topographer who up until her death had been trying to provide GPS mapping to Haiti.
Said Lassegue, who knew both personally: "It's a loss not just for Haiti but for the Caribbean, for Latin America."
They fought for the equal treatment of women, defended women against abuse and pushed to groom young Haitian girls. Another loss: Magalie Marcelin, a womens-rights leader who helped found a shelter for victims of rape and violence with her Kay Fanm organization.
Paul had known her since she was 14 years old.
"They will leave a huge void in the country because these were people who played an important role on behalf of the society, " he said.
"Haiti has lost a lot and it will take a long time before it can stand again.