Haitian Funeral Mass Honors The Children

Many children are among the tens of thousands of bodies buried in the deep, newly dug ditches on the seaside hills of Titanyen in Haiti. A funeral mass Monday memorialized Haiti's youth killed in the massive earthquake that left the living with much to mourn.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In Haiti today, a funeral for the anonymous. The January earthquake that killed an estimated 200,000 people robbed Haitians of the chance to individually bury and mourn their dead. Bodies were simply hauled off and buried in mass graves on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean. Today, hundreds gathered on that hillside to pay their respects.

And NPR's Mandalit del Barco was there.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: The view from this site is a beautiful vista of the ocean, but below me are thousands and thousands, countless people who have died.

Ms. CLARE EMOSS LOUISE(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

DEL BARCO: Clare Emoss Louise cries out and raises her hands in prayer here at Titanyen - what Haitians call the valley of death. Wearing white in solidarity, Clare Emoss Louise came with hundreds of others to pay their final respects.

Ms. LOUISE: (Foreign language spoken)

DEL BARCO: She says the earthquake killed their children, their parents, their friends. It leveled their homes and left them hungry and desperate in the streets. Tens of thousands of bodies have been removed from Port-au-Prince since the quake leveled the city, but burials continue. A body rots in the sun close to where we're standing. The people here say they've all lost relatives in the quake and think that some may have been brought here to be bulldozed into the canyons. That includes Abba Key Doson(ph). He lost five children in the earthquake.

Mr. ABBA KEY DOSON: (Through Translator) There are so many people buried here. We cannot organize a special funeral for each one of them because it's a common grave.

(Soundbite of singing)

DEL BARCO: A children's chorus accompanied legendary Haitian singer Farah Juste. And under a tent, six Catholic priests and pastors prayed for the victims. Until now there have been a few private funerals, but not at the scale of today's event. This was organized by the Bureau of International Lawyers and supporters of former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He was ousted in February 2004. With Haiti's current president almost silent and his government in ruin, Evan Ja(ph) said they are hoping Aristide will come back to help them.

Mr. EVAN JA: (Through Translator) The government, they show no respect for people, they never care about what's happened to the Haitian people. This is why we love Aristide so much and we want him to come back and continue live in Haiti.

(Soundbite of prayer)

DEL BARCO: Doing today's ceremony, mourners climbed to the hilltop to dig a hole for a wooden cross with flowers and black ribbons marking the site. The pastors and priests gave the last rites.

(Soundbite of prayer)

DEL BARCO: As the ceremony ended, the bulldozers began again to bury the dead, this time with a cross to mark their graves.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, outside Port-au-Prince.

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