BOCA RATON (CBS4) — When the devastating earthquake struck Haiti one year ago, Lynn University in Boca Raton lost four students and two professors when their Port-au-Prince hotel collapsed. But one year later, students and faculty at the university are honoring their lives with a day of service and remembrance.
The flags on campus are flying at half staff in honor of the students and professors.
As part of their day of service, the school community is spending the day painting homes of low-income families, cleaning up a beach and working in a soup kitchen, among other projects.
“We are carrying on the legacy of the members of the Lynn University community that we lost and this is what they wanted us to do,” said earthquake survivor Melissa Eliott to CBS4’s Joan Murray.
When the earthquake struck on January 12, 2010, the Lynn University group was on a Journey of Hope to bring food and aid to the poor. The group was trapped in their hotel which had collapsed around and on top of them. Six would perish. They were Stephanie Crispinelli, Britney Gengel, Christine Gianacaci and Courtney Hayes, and faculty members Richard Bruno and Patrick Hartwick. However, 8 students survived including Tom Schloemer.
“It’s been a rough year, just like for everyone but this is the final step, I think, for me, in my healing process. You are going to see tons of people living out the dream of those that we lost,” said Schloemer.
The Gianacaci’s are honoring the daughter, Christine, through a foundation to help other children. It’s called ‘Christine’s Hope for Kids Foundation, which has donated more than $50,000 to help 700 children in the Trenton, N.J., area. They also endowed the Christine Gianacaci Journey of Hope Award, which sponsors two students in Lynn’s annual trip abroad to serve the poor.
“It’s therapeutic for us as it is for, as it is for the kids. It’s a way that Christine, we can’t change what happened, but what we can do is make a change, or make a difference. It’s a way to turn tragedy into triumph,” said John Gianacaci.
Lynn University also broke ground Wednesday on a “Remembrance Plaza.”