Love's alive amid the ruins

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Their home is a pile of rubble, their church in ruins and their honeymoon suite a tent shared with eight relatives.

But Emmanuel Beauzile and Mary Leon found plenty to celebrate as they exchanged vows under a blue tarp in the ruins of Haiti's capital.

"We're still here," Beauzile said. "No matter what the situation is, we are going to be together."

The couple tied the knot in the shadow of the Notre Dame d'Haiti Cathedral, where they attended Mass and the bride sang in the choir before the earthquake caved in the roof and two sides.

The occasion was not entirely joyful: It was hard not think about those who would have attended had they survived the quake, but the ceremony had already been postponed once and the bride and groom felt it was important to go ahead.

It is hard to overstate the devastation of the Jan. 12 quake. It killed an estimated 230,000 people and forced 1.2 million more from their homes.

For much of the past seven weeks, ordinary life pretty much stopped. Nearly everyone's life has been upended and grief is universal. But signs of normality are beginning to emerge.

Schools in the capital are still closed, but at least one resourceful businesswoman has set up classes in a tent camp. An unknown number of businesses were lost, but new ones — from beauty salons to stalls that charge cell phone batteries — have emerged in the encampments to serve the newly homeless. Commercial flights are again arriving in the Port-au-Prince airport — and the traditional troubadour band is back greeting people at the arrivals gate.

Beauzile, 33, and Leon, 30, pulled together many of the trappings of a typical wedding. She wore a full white gown with elbow-length white lace gloves. He wore a charcoal-gray suit.

There were several hundred guests. Dozens of passers-by watched from atop piles of rubble in the dusty downtown streets. Guests sang hymns accompanied by a lone drummer.

Leon said she tried, unsuccessfully, not to think about those who couldn't make the ceremony, including two fellow singers in the choir, because they had been killed in the earthquake.

"I was happy and sad at the same time, because I had friends who were supposed to be there," she said.

Beauzile, who lost a cousin and several friends, focused on the ceremony and pushed out darker thoughts.

"I had to forget everything that has happened in the country for a minute," he said. "It was a special moment."