NPR logo

Loved Ones Keep Vigil Amid Hotel Montana's Ruins

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/122970910/122960946" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Loved Ones Keep Vigil Amid Hotel Montana's Ruins

Latin America

Loved Ones Keep Vigil Amid Hotel Montana's Ruins

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/122970910/122960946" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next, we're going to meet some people in Haiti who have no reason left to hope, but haven't lost their determination. They have connections to people in the rubble of the Hotel Montana. It was one of the finest places in Port-au-Prince, a weigh station for tourists and aid workers and dignitaries. Some people were rescued when the hotel collapsed. As many as 100 are still missing, and some of their loved ones spoke with NPR's Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH: The Hotel Montana is perched up on a hill with a view of the entire city. But 36-year-old Eric Nyman isn't looking at the scenery. He can't take his eyes off the pile of shattered concrete where he knows his fiancee is trapped, lost somewhere in a tangle of rebar, rock and bed sheets. He couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

Mr. ERIC NYMAN: Of course not. I mean, it's the love of my life. So...

KEITH: He's sitting next to the Montana's now-empty pool, one of the few spots of the hotel still intact. As we talked, his voice trails off. He's too focused on the rubble.

When the earthquake struck, the California native was in Panama. He's an environmental engineer and does development work there. That's where he met his 35-year-old fiancee, Chrystel Cancel, who's from France. She had just arrived in Port-au-Prince to work with USAID.

Mr. NYMAN: I was sitting in front of the TV and in front of the computer with very little information, and I just had to move. So I came to the site and started the search, along with everyone else.

(Soundbite of rubble being moved)

KEITH: Search and rescue teams from the United States and elsewhere are using heavy machinery now. A small group of family members, mostly Haitian, huddle in the shade outside of what was once a restaurant and is now a temporary morgue. There's a large, handwritten list of the missing, their gender and nationality. A candle flickers on a ledge in front of it.

Alix Pasquet is looking for his ex-brother-in-law, Woody Bennett.

Mr. ALIX PASQUET: He's buried somewhere underneath this rubble.

KEITH: He knows Bennett is in the hotel's restaurant, where every Tuesday at the same time, he would enjoy a gazpacho with his friends. The restaurant was flattened.

Mr. PASQUET: You can smell - you know, the smell of death is very strong. Even if I force the French to remove every single slab of concrete, I'm going to have them do it until I find his body.

KEITH: Eric Nyman has the same resolve.

Mr. NYMAN: At this point, I've lived several lifetimes. And - the things that I've seen inside that hotel. And everyone here knows why I'm here and who I'm looking for, so when she is found, I'll know it. I'm not going to visit the body. I will just have closure. But then again, there are miracles, and...

KEITH: I asked him how long they've been engaged. The pain is visible in his face.

Mr. NYMAN: Three days.

KEITH: Three days. He's crying, and so is everyone around him.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Port-au-Prince.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.