How Do They Bury Their Dead?

Haitian Families in America left without closure

By Brian Thompson
|  Thursday, Jan 14, 2010  |  Updated 11:26 PM EDT
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How Will They Get Closure? Local Haitian Families Try and Cope

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How Will They Get Closure? Local Haitian Families Try and Cope

For those Haitian Americans who already know they've lost loved ones, there's even more pain. How do they bury relatives they can't reach?
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Frustration is already building among those Haitian Americans who have already heard that they have lost loved ones in and around the capital of Port-au-Prince.

"Even if we get to go there, where do we go cuz everything is leveled? Where do we go?" asked Jimmy Tessier, 28, of New Brunswick, New Jersey, who lost an aunt and a cousin.

"The house just completely came down on them," he explained.

Tessier's uncle, married to the aunt who died, is trying to get to Haiti but because there are no commercial flights as of yet, isn't sure how he's going to do that.

And with half the extended family living in the United States and the other half in Haiti, Tessier has no idea how they will be able to have a funeral. "We're gonna do everything we can to have a proper funeral service," Tessier said. But he added there will likely have to be a memorial service here in the States.

"We can collect the pictures and we can gather and do the same ceremony that would have been done had they made it back home," said Pastor Therman Evans of the Morningstar Community Christian Center Church in Linden, New Jersey, who counts well over a hundred Haitian Americans in his nearly thousand member strong congregation.

And in fact, Evans predicts many such services in the days ahead as families in Haiti get the word out on who did, and did not survive.

But for those who have yet to hear, many may be conflicted over what could be a long wait.

"Is it better to know they are dead or not to know?" asked Valencia Herold, whose grandparents are missing. "Every time the phone rings we're on edge because we don't know," she added.

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