Haitians flock to cathedral to mark earthquake anniversary

Aquillis Lamesi, 48, prays while laying on the ground outside the ruins of the national cathedral in Port-au-Prince during a mass service on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Thousands of Haitians attended the mass to commemorate the anniversary of the 7.0-scale earthquake that devastated the area last year. David Albers/Staff

Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo

Aquillis Lamesi, 48, prays while laying on the ground outside the ruins of the national cathedral in Port-au-Prince during a mass service on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011. Thousands of Haitians attended the mass to commemorate the anniversary of the 7.0-scale earthquake that devastated the area last year. David Albers/Staff

— One year after a devastating earthquake partially collapsed the national cathedral here, thousands flocked to the site to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.

Clad largely in white and carrying their own chairs or bed sheets to sit on, Haitians arrived from across the city for the morning Mass. For many, if not most, the ceremony marks the completion of a tragic year. A hurricane, cholera and political unrest all followed the tremor, which itself claimed the lives of more than 220,000.

Junita Joseph, 59, arrived at the ceremony with the aid of a cane. She clutched an empty cereal box, her makeshift seat.

Joseph lives in a tent in Carrefour, a poor district on the outskirts of the city. She and her four children survived the earthquake, but Joseph lost her livelihood after a large fire engulfed the market where she vended clothing, Tete Boeuf.

"I'm coming here, because of the grace of God, to pray," she said. "Because I survived, I have to thank God."

Schools and many businesses are closed today. Roads were conspicuously empty of traffic between Port-au-Prince and the nearby suburb of Petionville.

Celebrations range across the city. Some said they would fast to mark the day. In Carrefour, government officials were to offer death certificates for anyone who could bring a photograph of their dead relatives to a church in the neighborhood, one radio station reported.

The past year's toll was visible outside of the cathedral, as well. Mosane Flerimon, 33, sleeps under a collection of tarps and bed sheets leaned against an aluminum fence surrounding the property.

With no work, three children and an absent husband, she said the thought of the past year upset her.

"Sure, because I'm not working, I'm not doing anything," Flerimon said.

The country will mark the time of the earthquake, 4:53 p.m., with a minute of silence.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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