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Oct 31, 2005

44 years later… a monument to Hattie’s victims

Story PictureToday, near the end of the busiest hurricane season in recorded history, it is only fitting that Belizeans–who were spared this year–pause to remember a night forty-four years ago when we were not so lucky. News Five’s Karla Heusner reports from Lord Ridge Cemetery.

Karla Heusner, Reporting
On October thirty-first, 1961 Hurricane Hattie levelled Belize City. While the buildings could be rebuilt, the bodies of many who died were washed away, never to be found. Others were interned in a mass grave at the Lord Ridge Cemetery that did not even have a marker? That is, until today.

Senior Minister George Price was Premier of Belize and Mayor of Belize City when Hattie hit. Over forty years later, the man who urged people to move inland to Hattieville and Belmopan to avoid future disasters, realised he still had one piece of unfinished business for the victims of Hattie: a monument to their memory.

George Price, Former Prime Minister
?During the forty-four years, so many things had to be done, reconstruction programme, the building of Belmopan, the struggle for Independence. But about two years ago someone asked me, ?where is the communal grave?? And I began to remember forty-four years ago I remembered that same entrance there, but there were no graves here in this space. And there was a huge communal grave here; that was my memory. And it was confirmed by the then keeper of cemeteries, Mr. Coot, so I felt secure then I was in the right place. But everything is so different than it was then.?

With the help of Winston Smiling, almost two thousand dollars was raised for this monument at the Lord Ridge Cemetery. Today it was blessed and dedicated by Bishop Dorrick Wright. He was only fourteen on that fateful day and clung helplessly to a tree as the water rose and claimed his mother, two sisters, and a brother. Today, he has finally found a place to remember his loved ones.

Bishop Dorrick Wright, Lost Family during Hattie
?Well, there is a feeling of gratitude, that somehow we have a place that we can recognize, acknowledge as the place where my relatives are. I think every time the hurricane season comes out I give it double thought or maybe even triple thought and whenever there is a hurricane coming to Belize, no doubt it stirs up a lot of fear. Every year I help organize the Guadalupe procession for protection against storms and hurricanes. From the first of June until the thirtieth of November, I pray every day for protection against storms and hurricanes. So for me, Hurricane is always a frightful thing.?

Karla Heusner
?What do you hope people will feel? Even people who did not lose anyone in the hurricane, school children, anyone who comes to see it; what do you hope they will get??

George Price
?To pray for them. Pray for their eternal rest. Pray that God will bless the grave, this huge communal grave here.?

Karla Heusner Reporting for News Five.

Hattie was responsible for the death of two hundred and sixty-four people in Belize. The monument was designed and built by Jose Chan of Belize City.

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