Miamians Gather for Haiti Quake Remembrance

Vigils and tributes planned throughout South Florida

A year after a devastating earthquake ravaged the island nation of Haiti, Haitian-Americans in Miami are pausing to reflect on the tragedy and using the anniversary to shed light on the struggles its citizens still face.

A memorial service is planned in North Miami, where there'll be a moment of silence at 4:53 p.m., the exact time of day the earthquake struck on Jan 12, 2010.

The earthquake killed over 230,000 people and left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless.

North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre, whose 57,000-citizen city is about one-third Haitian, is hoping the Obama administration will put some 55,000 Haitians on the fast track for visas to the U.S. The requests had been approved before the earthquake hit but the visas can take up to a decade to finally get into the hands of those who requested them.

Pierre said nearly $1 billion gets sent from Haitians in the U.S. back to their native land.

"They'll be able to send money to help their families back in Haiti," said Pierre, himself a Haitian-American. "Then (their families) won't have to be constantly asking the United States government and other international communities for help, constantly trying to get aid from them when they can help themselves."

In the Little Haiti neighborhood, a march and vigil is planned to remember those lost in the quake. And Catholic Archbishop Thomas Wenski will be celebrating an evening mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami.

Lynn University is announcing plans for a Remembrance Plaza on its Boca Raton campus. Four Lynn students and two professors died when their Port-Au-Prince hotel collapsed.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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