One year ago today, at 4:53 PM, the earthquake struck Haiti. Today, in memory of that, All Hands canceled all work projects. Instead, we took part in the memorial procession, at the request of the mayor and the director general. The procession started at the mayor's office in central Leogane, and made its way through the city to the outskirts where the graveyard is. Right outside the graveyard there is a empty plot of land that you wouldn't think twice when looking at it unless you knew it was a mass grave for about 2,500 people that died this day last year. The mayor asked All Hands if we could put together some sort of memorial at the site in time for the year anniversary, and we did. That site is now surrounded by a white picket fence of sorts, that twists and bends (I imagine to bring a visual reminder of the earthquake) and we put in a rock garden and planted plants. In the middle there is the metal cross in a concrete block that was there before. People in the procession that were carrying wreaths of flowers left them on the cross. Mirlande Manigat, who is the current front-runner in the Haitian presidential election, joined the procession about half-way through it, just jumped in right in front of me and a bunch of other All Hands volunteers. At first there was a bit of nervousness, as Haitian politics have a rather volatile element to them and we weren't sure what her presence would do, but other than an initial murmur through the crowd - "Manigat is here!" - everything went back to the way it was few minutes prior to her making her presence known. The day was bigger than the person.
After the procession ended, we made our way to a stage that had been set up for some speakers to talk about the year anniversary from. At 4:53, a moment of silence was observed, if there ever truly can be such a thing in a city in Haiti. The hum of generators and growls of mototaxi engines are everywhere. But it was pretty silent actually. I felt the impact of the moment, but what caught me hardest was when a friend of mine - a local volunteer who's name I don't want to share simply because I don't know if he'd want me to - crouched down, clearly upset, and scratched, "Sandra mwen pa bliye ou." into the concrete. "Sandra I won't forget you." It makes what happened very real when you see it hurting someone you care about.
Thank you to Alistair Sathananthan Bremnath for these photos.
We have a meeting in just a few minutes so I need to cut this short. We're gathering so that the local volunteers can show us a slideshow they put together about the earthquake, and so they can share their personal stories with us about that day.
Pou tout zanmi mwen nan Ayiti jodia: