PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — They were the voices of reason and compromise in a country where words are often used as weapons of political warfare, where political turmoil is a chronic condition, like hardship and economic chaos.
And now these rising stars have been lost forever, swallowed in the rubble of the earthquake.
They were women's rights leaders, political militants, university professors, men of God.
With many still unaccounted for, the news of every confirmed death is gripping the country, even bringing tears to the eyes of its leaders.
"Every time you hear another name, you can't help but feel it," said Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive, who last week excused himself from a meeting with Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding, walked outside and broke down in tears. "There is only so long you can hold in the emotion."
Moments earlier, word was just making the round that Micha Gaillard, the university professor and firebrand political militant, who became known as the voice of the opposition during the movement to oust former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was dead.
"It's clear that in this catastrophe, all kinds of individuals were victims. You find people in the bourgeoisie, in the middle class, in popular neighborhoods, in peasants communities who have died," said former Prime Minister Jacques-Edouard Alexis.
"It's a huge blow when the earthquake takes away the human resources to help us to improve the governance of the country, to help us ensure that democracy is making huge progress in the country," Alexis said.
Bellerive acknowledged that the loss is immeasurable.
"Every moment you hear about a well-known, important Haitian figure who has died. You ask yourself, 'Why?' " he said. "I would like to think that we are going to learn something positive out of it, to help the country. I've seen during this period an extraordinary solidarity, compassion that gives a bit of hope, it shows that we can work together. It's a good thing toward unity."
Among those who often called for unity was Archbishop Serge Miot. The face of the Catholic Church in Haiti, he was the mediator in times of crisis.
"For me, it's a personal pain because many of the personalities who died I personally knew," said Evans Paul, a former Port-au-Prince mayor. "Monsignor Miot is someone who I worked with whenever there was a crisis. He would always offer up a solution in the crisis."
Paul also knows Georges Anglade, the former Aristide minister of public works, who partly lived in Canada and was here with his wife, Mireille Neptune Anglade. She was a women's rights activist. Both died along with Phillipe Rouzier, a respected Haitian economist.
Another loss: Magalie Marcelin, a women's-rights leader who helped found a shelter for victims of rape and violence with her Kay Fanm organization.