Memorializing lost peacekeepers: When is it time for the mourning to end?
The day after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake, Christina Monti and Reem Nashashibi set up a Facebook page to allow U.N. peacekeepers, their families, and friends to learn about the fate of loved ones and to memorialize those who died there. In recent months, traffic to the site has waned, as few people ...
The day after the devastating Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake, Christina Monti and Reem Nashashibi set up a Facebook page to allow U.N. peacekeepers, their families, and friends to learn about the fate of loved ones and to memorialize those who died there.
In recent months, traffic to the site has waned, as few people have posted notes, and new U.N. tragedies have led to the deaths of U.N. civilians and peacekeepers in Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, and Congo.
Alaciel Campos Dugone, who had been administrating the Haiti Facebook page, posted an "awkward" question to the followers last month. Should she close the page, offering loved ones an opportunity to move on with their lives, or leave it up as a permanent memorial?
"Every single member of the group processed their terrible loss in different ways and maybe entering into the group brings hurtful memories," Dugone wrote. "But as I was not the person who opened it, I feel that I don’t have the right to close it. That is why I am asking for your help. For me it’s very important. If you feel that the group served at a critical moment but don’t want it any more, can you please erase your name from it? Then I will have the answer and proceed in accordance."
The post set off a conversation about the role of the page, with some initially agreeing that it might be better to bring an end to it. "[C]losure is the most natural way to keep the memories open," wrote Jagoda Ungaro. "Dear Alaciel, you did a great job by creating and managing the group. It was definetively [sic] a tool to work through the sorrow at the time. Life goes on while many other things come to an end.… the group served it[s] purpose and now is time for good bye," added Arline Rushing.
But others, including Oscar Torres Murcia, thought the page should be left open and perhaps expanded to serve as an online refuge for others enduring loss from earthquakes, tsunamis, conflicts, and other man-made or natural disasters.
Gregory Grene, who once sought hopeful news about his twin brother Andrew on the site and then grieved his loss there, has asked for the page to remain up. Monti promised to help keep it going. "Alaciel," she wrote. "Please leave the group open. It holds memories and friendship and partnership in loss for many. Thanks!"
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Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch
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