Haiti Remembers a Tragedy

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - January 12, 2013

Above: Haiti’s police band at the ceremony (All photos: OP Haiti)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Haiti paused Saturday to remember the greatest tragedy in the country’s history — a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that took the lives of nearly 320,000 Haitians on Jan. 12, 2010.

On Saturday, three years later, memorials were led by a ceremony near the National Palace site, which itself was severely damaged by the quake. It was later demolished by Sean Penn’s J/P HRO charity.

In an official address, Haiti’s President Michel Martelly, spoke of the memory of those who perished; the sobering reminders of those who live on with serious injuries and the sacrifice of the country as its works to move forward from the tragedy.

“To all of you who still suffer in silence and wipe your tears, to all of you that on Jan. 12 were left as widows, widowers and orphans, in any case ravaged, a little more, a little more vulnerable, I express to you my compassion,” he said.

He also addressed criticism that a main memorial honoring those who died and were buried in mass graves in St Christophe, has not yet been built.

“I want to express my regret and deplore that the Mausoleum to the Memory of our fallen has not yet been erected at St Christopher,” he said. “I want to tell you that I will personally invest so that the symbolism of that place will soon find its expression.”

The President additionally pointed to those still living in tent camps, displaced by the quake, urging “patience” for “all those thrown into the street, thrown into public places, into vacant lots and makeshift shelters.”

While Haiti has found housing of some kind for 1 million such people, he said, 300,000 Haitians remain in camps.

Much of the international coverage of the three-year anniversary has focused on the slow pace of reconstruction in Haiti, and particularly concerns over the way foreign aid has been disbursed.

“I can understand the healthy concern of public opinion as to the proper use of these efforts,” he said, thanking foreign countries for their support. “This pressure must be maintained.”

But he offered that Haiti, “despite all of its suffering,” was beginning a new order in its international community — one based on “solidarity, accountability, transparency, but also mutual respect.”

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