Tuesday, March 9, 2010

UN Pays Tribute to 101 Staff Killed in Haiti


UNITED NATIONS — An emotional Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute Tuesday to "the 101 heroes" working for the United Nations who were killed in the Haiti earthquake, the single greatest loss for the world body in its 64-year history.

Hundreds of U.N. staff joined relatives of those who died at the ceremony, listening as Ban pledged: "We will never forget you. We will carry on your work."

Cries from a young child in the audience who lost a loved one in the Jan. 12 quake punctuated the memorial tribute.

The ceremony began with a video of the victims' pictures interspersed with footage of the devastating earthquake that left over 230,000 dead and more than 1 million homeless, and of Ban's visit five days later. It also depicted the solemn military farewell to Haiti mission chief Hedi Annabi and his deputy, Luiz Carlos da Costa, who died when the U.N. headquarters collapsed.

After a minute of silence to honor the U.N. victims, the names of the victims were read as their pictures flashed on a screen. The majority died when the headquarters and adjacent buildings were flattened.

In what many observers said was his most emotional speech since taking the helm of the United Nations in January 2007, Ban began by bowing deeply to those in the audience and those watching the Webcast at U.N. offices around the world.

"Dear colleagues. Dear friends. Above all to families of those to whom we sadly bid farewell," the secretary-general said, his voice breaking.

"We have suffered the greatest loss in our history," Ban said, adding that those who died came from all corners of the globe to help Haiti and included doctors and drivers, police officers and policy advisers, soldiers and lawyers.

"Gratitude fills this chamber — profound thanks that our world and our lives were touched by the grace and nobility of these 101 U.N. heroes," he said, standing in front of a table where 101 candles burned.

General Assembly President Ali Treki, speaking on behalf of the 192 U.N. member states, said one way to pay tribute would be to support the people and government of Haiti, especially as the rainy season approaches and many have no shelter.

Haiti's U.N. Ambassador Leo Merores said it was tragic that the quake "snatched away from us those who worked for peace and development" to improve life for those in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

"Their memory will be ... an additional reason to encourage us to continue and to complete the work that they started," he said. "Their sacrifice will not have been in vain."

Source: AP

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