They wrote the names of their loved ones on yellow sticky notes.
Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and children.
To a chorus of Hallelujah, hundreds of people released white balloons in Miami on Monday. They attached names to the balloons in hopes that those who lost their lives when a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti five years ago Monday will know they will never be forgotten.
“I want her to know we still think about her,” said Sergeline Seraphie, who wrote down her mother’s cousin’s name. “I think this is beautiful.”
The balloon release was part of an hours-long event in Little Haiti to mark the fifth anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake, which killed more than 300,000, injured another 300,000 and left 1.5 million Haitians homeless.
Organizer and Haitian activist Marleine Bastien said the march and cultural program that followed was meant to show solidarity for Haiti and give Haitians hope for a brighter future.
"I was humbled that so many people from different organizations, different faiths came together to show the Haitian people that they will not be forgotten," she said. Several local dignitaries participated in the event, including Miami-Dade Commissioners Sally Heyman, Audrey Edmonson, Keon Hardemon and Chairman Jean Monestime.
At 4:53 p.m. the group gathered at the Toussaint Louverture statue on the corner of North Miami Avenue and 62nd Street for a moment of silence to mark the time the quake struck. They then marched several blocks to the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Ter., holding signs and escorted by police.
The program included speeches, poems, songs and dances honoring Haiti.
“We come before you this afternoon with a heavy heart when we remember the thousands of brothers and sisters who lost their lives during the earthquake that struck Jan. 12, 2010,’’ said FanFan Floreal, a pastor at Shalom Church. “Yet we come before you with a spirit of thanksgiving. We want to give you thanks, oh God, for the resilience of the Haitian people.”
For Jude Derisme, the gathering was “therapeutic.” He said it felt like yesterday when he got a call from his aunt telling him about the quake. He was driving on Florida’s Turnpike on his way home to Wellington in Palm Beach County when she called. He said he was in complete shock and missed his exit.
In all, he lost eight family members that day including his grandmother, aunt, uncle and several cousins.
As he wrote each name on the note he said he loved them. He tied the note to the balloon, kissed it and sent it up into the sky.