Students have been able to donate since the semester began to help the people still in Haiti. (Sarah Kazadi / The Statesman)

When Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. began his speech at a memorial service for victims of the earthquake in Haiti, he clenched the sides of the podium and released an abundant exhale into the microphone.

“We can list the numbers. We can recite the numbers,” Stanley said. “We can see the disasters on the screen, but it is difficult for our minds to grasp the magnitude of those lives lost.”

Still, Stanley recounted the death toll: 170,000

The number, according to Haitian officials, is still growing with the search for those displaced on Jan. 12, in the magnitude-7 earthquake.

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Students reflected in a series of prayers and songs during the memorial service, which took place in the Student Activity Center auditorium. Patrice Toussaint, a member of the gospel choir and a junior at Stony Brook University, recited Psalm 23 in French, from memory. “I have known the prayer since I was a little girl,” Toussaint said. “My mother taught it to me. It is very common in Haitian culture.”

So far, members of the Haitian Student Organization (HSO) and the Caribbean Student Organization (CSO) have worked together to raise more than $3,000 for the American Red Cross Association.

Dexter Daniel, the president of HSO and the leader of the memorial service, attributed the large amount of donations to the student body.

When the service was over, Daniel stood in the auditorium hallway collecting donations from students on their way out.

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“HSO and CSO raised the money, but the students were the ones who donated,” Daniel said. “It was all them.”

While campus organizations have spent the past three weeks preparing student sponsored events to raise money for Haiti earthquake relief efforts, Stanley said, physicians and other medical personnel at Stony Brook University Medical Center are in Haiti, providing medical relief for those who are injured.

“I thank each of you who have helped in any way,” he said.

As he spoke, pictures of Haiti flashed behind him. Each photograph showed different people from Haiti and their personal moments of desperation.

In a closing prayer, students waited in line to announce special intentions into the microphone, each putting a name to the number.

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“Pray for my uncle and his wife, who are still living on the street with their children,” a student said with a trembling voice.

Many students knew too many people to count, rattling off names of cousins and grandparents. Sadly, they often concluded with “and about ten other people.”

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