A Florida university president told his students, faculty, and staff today that the time has come to grieve the loss of four students and two faculty members lost under the rubble of a hotel in Haiti.
“We had waited for good news, hoped for a miracle -- prayed for a different outcome,” Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross said in a speech today on the Boca Raton campus. “But it is apparently not to be.”
Britney Gengel, a student from Rutland who would have turned 20 earlier this month, is believed to have been among the Lynn students who died in the earthquake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12.
Twelve students and the two faculty members were in Port-au-Prince on a weeklong mercy mission, part of Lynn University’s required mission of international experience for all its students. Eight students were rescued after the earthquake, though reports indicated that all of them were found safe. Those reports turned out to be false, but not before Gengel’s family and the families of three other students left their homes for Lynn’s campus with the false hope that their children were alive and well.
The Gengel family could not be reached for comment today.
“Today begins a new phase in our journey,” Ross said. “Today, we begin to grieve as individuals and as an institution. And in doing so, we join the families of our missing students and professors, who continue to grieve at this hour -- and who are certainly carrying the heaviest load.
"We know that even as these wounds open anew, they will also begin to heal. In the days and weeks ahead we will be focused on that healing.”
Lynn University had stood steadfast, refusing to give up hope that its students and teachers would be found alive. Crews working for the college continued to dig through the ruins of the Hotel Montana for several days after the official end to search and rescue efforts was announced.
But more than 15 days after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck, hopes for a miracle have faded.
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