Families of missing Lynn students release statement

MEDIA ALERT: Families of three of the missing release press statement

The parents of Britney Gengel, Stephanie Crispinelli and Christine Gianacaci have prepared the following statement.

Today Lynn University President Kevin Ross urged the Lynn community to begin to heal and grieve for the four students and two professors still missing in Haiti. We understand and respect the motivations behind these statements. In recent days we have encouraged a similar mindset in some of the eight students who returned from Haiti unharmed – students with whom we have formed a lasting attachment.  They need to continue their education and focus on the work ahead of them, even at this difficult time.

For the student body we understand that life goes on. But as parents of missing children, our hearts are heavy today. We, the families of Britney, Stephanie and Christine, still have hope and will not give up hope until our daughters are found. Even as we are preparing for the worst, we are also hoping for a miracle.

At this moment, having our daughters returned to us is our highest priority. We have the assurances of those in the Department of State and those on site at the Hotel Montana that they will "to the best of (their) abilities" work to return our daughters to us. We pray that they can deliver on this promise, and that they can do the same for all of those lost at the Hotel Montana, as well as the estimated 4,500 Americans missing in Haiti.

Thank you:
While we are focused on getting news of our daughters, we cannot help but want to again thank all of those on-site at the Hotel Montana, officials at the State Department and U.S. Embassy, our elected officials, Lynn University administrators, and others we don't even know, who have worked tirelessly on our behalf – and on behalf of all the families of the missing. And thanks also to our friends, families, and communities. Though our circumstances may make it hard to say enough, we are so grateful for all your prayers, support and efforts.

The following remarks were delivered by Lynn University President Kevin M. Ross at a press briefing on Wednesday, January 27, at 2 p.m.

BOCA RATON, FL (LYNN UNIVERSITY) - "For the last two hours I have been with our students, our staff, faculty and friends of the university to deliver difficult news. To the best of our knowledge, recovery operations now dominate the landscape at the Hotel Montana. Fifteen days after the earthquake that devastated the country of Haiti and imperiled the lives of 14 of our community members, we are still without four of our students and two of our faculty members. And it is time for us now to grieve, and to begin to heal.
We had waited for good news, hoped for a miracle – prayed for a different outcome. But it is apparently not to be.

Religious traditions around the world reserve a special reverence for those that serve others – and especially those that perish in that service. Our six missing – Stephanie Crispinelli, Brittany Gengel, Christine Gianacaci, Courtney Hayes, Patrick Hartwick and Richard Bruno – will always be counted among those ranks.

Theirs was a journey of hope. Theirs – a selfless commitment to serving others. They were on the ground in Haiti to find, feed and focus on the poor of that nation. In the day and a half before the quake, they did just that – doling out rice at a distribution center and holding the hands of sick children in a dilapidated orphanage. They intended to do much more. In their absence, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to follow in their stead.

Today begins a new phase in our journey. 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.

So much of this tragedy in Haiti has unfolded in public. And I do not regret that. The outpouring of compassion and offerings of prayer have humbled us, steadied us, and emboldened us. We will forever be grateful for those prayers and well wishes, and grateful for the messengers who helped draw those eyes – and those hearts – to our plight and to the plight of all those in need.

But in the days and weeks ahead, we must retreat from public view. The healing we require and the ceremonies we will hold must be private. Though these events and commemorations may occur on the quieter reaches of our campus, I want everyone hearing this now to know you will be there with us. You have helped us through this time, and we owe you a debt of thanks for that.

Over the course of the last two weeks we have been asked if we can sustain our commitment to international experiences and education as a result of this tragedy. I do not want to leave this podium without answering that question once more.

Of course we will continue to encourage our students to live, work and serve abroad, as well as here at home. It is an important part of who we are, and therefore, a defining characteristic of our graduates.

But we'll also continue this work because we owe it to our six. Our students will continue to feed the poor, aid the sick, and comfort the hurting… and they will spread the word about the things they see and the needs they encounter. They will do this, whether I think they should or not, because it is a passion that has been cultivated on this campus in large part by the very students who were serving on that Journey of Hope. 

Though we have determined that now is the time to grieve and begin to heal, we also know that our healing will not be complete without the return of the remains of all six of our missing to their families. The last time I stood here I pledged to support that plea. Thank you to those that have come forward to support this imperative. But I'm sorry to say today that many here are still anxious for more solid assurances. As long as that anxiety persists, they will have our voices and our labor behind them. I hope those assurances, which are so important to the healing process, come very soon.

"Thank you again for your prayers and your support. Our prayers and thoughts continue to be with all of those hurting at this hour. My wish for them, for you, and for us, is for comfort to come soon."