Haitians Flag Day subdued after tragedy - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Haitians Flag Day subdued after tragedy

By Chuck Weber email

BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX)-Celebration in the face of heartbreak. As local Haitians observe their homeland's Flag Day, the past week's deadly boat capsizing is very much on their minds.

Toussaint L'Ouverture Charter High School in Boynton Beach held its third annual Haitian Flag Day event Sunday night. Along with activities celebrating Haiti's independence, there was a moment of silence for those who lost their lives off Palm Beach County Wednesday.

A boat filled with immigrants, mostly from Haiti, capsized. 16 people survived, but at least nine died and others may still be missing.

"Our community is mourning the loss of life," stated retired Major Joseph Bernadel, chief operating officer at Toussaint L'Ouverture High. But Bernadel said marking Flag Day is also important. "As part of a nation of immigrants," he said, "the United States has had all numbers of tragedies that involve different immigrant groups."

Gens Flermont's situation is a reminder of what some Haitian families are enduring now. We met him this past week as he tried to learn if his son was still alive. Flermont had been told his 26-year old son, Elson, was on the boat that capsized.

Sunday night Phillipe "Bob" Louis Jeune, of Haitian Citizens United Task Force in Lake Worth, said Mr. Flermont is still waiting for word from authorities. He also said Flermont had not received any phone calls from his son-- not an encouraging sign.

Dr. Diane Allerdyce, chief academic officer at Toussaint L'Ouverture High, said "the tragedy has had a deep emotional impact" on students and the community. But she added, "There's also the possibility, in an event like this, to recognize the great contribution of the Haitian people in the community, and their sacrifice to seek a better life."

May 18 is recognized as Haitian Flag Day, marking the creation of the country's flag in 1803. Haiti gained its independence the following year.

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