Published: January 13. 2013 4:00AM PST
Haitians from the man sweeping the earthquake-damaged Santa Ana Catholic church, where he now lives, to President Michel Martelly remembered the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake that ravaged the country. Martelly, in a simple ceremony in the capital Port-au-Prince, urged his countrymen to recall the tens of thousands of people who lost their lives. He was joined by former U.S. president Bill Clinton, now the U.N. special envoy to Haiti, later for a similarly quiet wreath-laying commemoration.
“Haitian people, hand in hand, we remember what has gone," Martelly said.
Martelly announced a government contest seeking designs for a monument to honor those who died in the quake. He also said the government had just released a new construction code aimed at ensuring new buildings are seismically resistant in hopes of preventing the same kind of catastrophic damage in any future earthquake.
Haiti’s previous presidential administration said 316,000 people were killed, but no one really knows how many died. The disaster displaced more than a million others. Most of the rubble created by the quake has since been carted away, but more than 350,000 people still live in grim displacement camps.
Many people had hoped the reconstruction effort would have made more headway by now, but progress has been stymied by political paralysis, the scale of devastation and a trickle of aid.
The anniversary this year has been used by Haiti observers to criticize the reconstruction process and by foreign aid groups to promote their work and raise money. The European Union announced Saturday it was giving Haiti 30.5 million euros for displaced people still living in camps, as well as victims of a subsequent cholera epidemic and those affected by Hurricane Sandy late last year.
Jan. 12 was observed as a national holiday the last two years to remember the quake. This year, the government said the day would no longer be a holiday but called for the Haitian flag to be flown at half-staff and for nightclubs and “similar establishments" to close.
But for some Haitians, it was just another day. “We can’t remain focused on January 12th," said Asaie St. Louis, a 56-year-old teacher and devout church-goer, Bible in hand. “It’s passed already."
Dieu Nalio Chery / The Associated Press