400 turn out for Haiti vigil at UF

University of Florida students Carine Normil, 23, let, and Ayana Flewellen, 19, participate in a candlelight vigil for the Haitian earthquake victims in the amphitheatre of the J. Wayne Reitz Union on the UF campus Friday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 11:26 p.m.

Kimberly Carpel went to Gators United For Haiti's candlelight vigil to sort out her emotions.

On Friday night, about 400 people gathered at the Reitz Union Ampitheater to honor those who perished in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Haiti on Tuesday.

Carpel, a UF public relations sophomore with family connections to Haiti, didn't expect much.

She said she came to the event to see UF's official position on the Haiti crisis because she was disheartened that the focus previously seemed to be on the two UF students who were in Haiti at the time of the disaster and not on the Haitian students who were privately suffering over the potential or actual loss of family and friends.

"I want to see if the university will actually acknowledge that students are hurting beyond the two graduate students," she said.

The event was put together by Gators United for Haiti, a student group that formed within 24 hours of the crisis in order to raise $50,000 in relief.

William Glass, a UF alumnus, has no family connection to Haiti but felt a sense of duty to show respect for the fallen and suffering. He said that after hearing about the event on a Gainesville radio station, he felt God would want him to be there.

"You have to be pretty much made out of stone for this to not impact you," Glass said.

The event began with speeches from members of the Gators United for Haiti, Student Body President Jordan Johnson and UF President Bernie Machen among others. After that, Gators United for Haiti president Sky Georges asked for students to share their stories with the audience.

Young women came to the podium, some buttressed by arm-holding friends and others only by the emotional support of the crowd.

Stories were relayed about fallen family members.

After the girls returned to their seats, Pastor George Dumaine of the First Assembly of God took the podium.

Dumaine, who is from Haiti, made an analogy to hearing news of the disaster to his eyewitness of a shooting in Gainesville that he said impacted him forever.

"Watching the victim on the ground, I realized that he was my brother, that he was me," Dumaine said.

The theme of brotherhood prevailed as Haitians, non-Haitians, students and seniors alike helped each other light candles to close the ceremony.

"It feels good to be a Gator tonight," Carpel said.

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