At Radio Soleil – Searching the Faces of the Lost

Home Brooklyn Life At Radio Soleil – Searching the Faces of the Lost

By Clare O’Connor

On a wall in the front room at Radio Soleil rows of photos are tacked up haphazardly. In one, a young bride dressed in white smiles as she clings to a bouquet. Beneath her, its edges curling, is a photo of a small girl gripping a lunchbox, looking uncertain in her school uniform. Next to her are two grinning older men, one dapper in a beige suit. All these are faces of the lost, now presumed dead, in the Haiti earthquake.

In the days after the quake, members of Brooklyn’s Haitian community gathered at Radio Soleil on Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush, hoping for news of missing relatives. Station owner and manager Ricot Dupuy, a slight 55-year-old who moved to Brooklyn from Haiti when he was 21, started entering the names of lost Haitians into a sprawling manual database. Soon, desperate and anxious for any possible leads, Brooklyn’s Haitians started using the front room as a makeshift Missing Persons unit, hoping someone would recognize the face of a relative or friend and confirm that they had survived.

“As they find them, they come and remove the pictures,” Dupuy said the other night, motioning to the remaining photographs. He can’t say for certain whether the bride, the schoolgirl or the old men looking up from the wall will ever be found.  He has spent these past weeks – which he describes as “hell”– acting as a counselor for the bereaved.

On the opposite wall, the bright red flag of Haiti hangs beneath a sign proclaiming the station as “la voix de la communauté Haitienne” – the voice of the Haitian community. Radio Soleil broadcasts 24 hours a day with the help of two sister stations on the island and two U.S.-based counterparts.

Ricot motions to a row of enlarged photos mounted for decoration – they look slightly dated. One by the storefront window shows the grand Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince as it was before the quake, its domed French Renaissance façade gleaming white. Dupuy says it was the most beautiful building in the Caribbean. Now, like much of the city, it has been reduced to rubble.

The first few days after the quake were the worst, he says. He received calls and emails from desperate Haitians worldwide, begging him to help find their family members by broadcasting their names on Radio Soleil. “It’s better now,” he says, although he does not look convinced. “Now, I’m not inputting people’s names. At this point, people know if their loved ones are dead or alive.”

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