Haiti on Tuesday began a two-day ceremony honoring the 220,000 people who died in a catastrophic earthquake one year ago.
Government officials gathered early at a mass grave just north of the capital Port-au-Prince. Between 150,000 and 200,000 victims of the Jan. 12, 2010 quake are believed to have been hastily buried there.
The commemoration was expected to conclude with a minute of silence on Wednesday at 4:53 p.m., the exact one-year anniversary of the devastating tremor.
Haiti President Rene Preval laid a wreath on the hill overlooking the Caribbean.
“We remember you, we will never forget you,” Preval said, according to AFP.
On Wednesday, thousands of Port-au-Prince citizens dressed in white sang hymns in the streets as they walked to prayer services.
With 800,000 people displaced in tent camps and the nation’s economy and infrastructure still in peril, the impoverished country has hardly recovered from the crippling disaster that struck 12 months ago.
A cholera outbreak and political turmoil related to the Nov. 28 elections have only made matters worse.
While he praised U.S. humanitarian efforts in Haiti following the quake, President Barack Obama acknowledged that the recovery effort is far from over.
“Still, too much rubble continues to clog the streets, too many people are still living in tents, and for so many Haitians progress has not come fast enough,” Obama said in a statement Tuesday.