Remembrance Day in Haiti is held on January 12 each year to pay tribute to the victims of the January 2010 earthquake. A natural disaster that devastated the nation, the 2010 earthquake caused immense destruction to life and property and led to around 300,000 lives lost, according to the Haitian government, although an official death toll remains uncertain. The ‘Jour De Remembrance,’ as it is called in French, one of the two official languages used in Haiti, commemorates all the Haitians and others who fell victim to this devastating earthquake.
History of Remembrance Day
The island of Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is unfortunately very prone to destructive earthquakes. Haiti itself had endured multiple earthquakes, with some of the earliest quakes being recorded in the 1700s, when Haiti was a French colony. Later earthquakes were said to have completely destroyed various towns in Haiti and its neighbor, the Dominican Republic.
Perhaps the most tragic quake in recent times has been the 2010 earthquake, which occurred on January 12, 2010. Lasting a mere 30 seconds, this 7.0-magnitude quake took place at around 16:53 (21:53 UTC), just 15.5 miles from Haiti’s biggest city, Port-au-Prince. The impact shook the region, surrounding towns, and many neighboring countries, including Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. Already reeling from massive damage, Haiti was further devastated by numerous aftershocks of high magnitude barely hours later. The shocks leveled 15% of the buildings across the land,
More than 15% of the buildings in Haiti’s Port-au-Prince and surrounding towns were leveled, a consequence of Haiti’s lack of building codes, killing or trapping occupants and further increasing the death toll, which included countless Haitians, air workers, tourists, and various public figures like Archbishop of Port-au-Prince Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, opposition leader Michel “Micha” Gaillard, and 30 members of the Fédération Haïtienne de Football.
The world immediately sprung into action to provide aid, organizing relief operations, donations, and more days after the earthquake. However, the idea was brought down by poorly executed operations, as much of the aid was bogged down by sluggish bureaucracy on the part of the donor nations and mismanagement by aid organizations. The Haitian spirit continues to soldier on, and even another quake, this time in 2021, could not quell their hope for a stronger future.
Remembrance Day timeline
The first major recorded earthquakes take place in Haiti, in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas.
On January 12, a large-scale earthquake of 7.0 magnitude occurs on the West Indian island of Hispaniola, majorly affecting the country of Haiti.
On January 24, Haiti experiences around 52 aftershocks measuring a 4.5 or more magnitude.
In August, the U.S. Congress passes an act requiring the U.S. State Government to measure and meet post-earthquake recovery and development efforts in Haiti and accurately provide these details to Congress.
On January 6, Haitian native and author Dimitry Elias Léger makes his debut with “God Loves Haiti,” which is set at the time of the 2010 earthquake.
In January, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne honors the 10th anniversary of Haiti's earthquake by issuing a statement of remembrance.
Remembrance Day FAQs
Do they celebrate Columbus Day in Haiti?
Haiti commemorates the day Christopher Columbus landed on Hispaniola in 1492 not with Columbus Day, but with a special Discovery Day.
Why did Haiti abolish slavery?
Years of deep fragmentation of Haitian society compounded with colonial oppression and the brutality of slavery led to a revolution that began as early as the 1790s. Eventually, Haiti was the first European country to shake off the shackles of slavery.
What is the most important holiday in Haiti?
Haitian Independence Day, on January 1 each year, and Haitian Flag Day on May 18 are two of the more important Haitian holidays.
How to Observe Remembrance Day
Honor the lives lost
Observe a minute of silence, pray for the departed souls, or keep them in your mind on this day. Search for information about the people who lost their lives on this day, and honor their memories by checking to see if you can participate in relief efforts.
Learn more about the disaster
Understand the various factors that contributed to making the 2010 earthquake so destructive. Find out what relief efforts were launched, how much they helped, and what is the status of Haiti today.
Volunteer to support Haiti
Explore volunteering opportunities with relief organizations or get involved in local Haitian efforts and groups. Pledge your time and efforts to help rebuild Haiti and help the Haitian community.
5 Facts About The 2010 Earthquake
Haiti's neighbor, the Dominican Republic, was the first to offer aid to Haiti; they sent basic amenities, opened up hospitals and airports, and sent out emergency relief teams as soon as the earthquake hit.
A record number of mobile donations
The American Red Cross's request for aid from U.S. citizens managed to raise $7 million in 24 hours via text messages alone.
The most-watched telethon
“Hope for Haiti Now: A Global Benefit for Earthquake Relief,” the charity telethon to raise funds for Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, was one of the most-watched in history and raised $58 million within 24 hours.
Aid workers and emergency responders who reached Haiti after the earthquake reported seeing groups of people singing on the streets and the locals organizing themselves into security forces and leaders to help others survive the chaos.
The Canada-Haiti relationship
In the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Canada changed its immigration rules to allow more Haitian immigrants; this gave many Haitians a chance to escape the devastation.
Why Remembrance Day is Important
We're honoring resilient people
Every Haitian rallied around their fellow citizens to help survive the crisis, and they're still fighting to return to normalcy. Our special holiday helps keep these brave warriors in our thoughts and never lets their stories be forgotten.
We won’t forget the lives lost
Every living thing that perished on the day — and on subsequent days — will live on in our memories. Every Remembrance Day is another day we memorialize those who are no longer with us because of the 2010 earthquake.
It ensures we won't forget Haiti either
In a country where the signs of 2010's devastating earthquake still exist, having a Remembrance Day helps keep the solidarity alive for the brave people of a natural disaster-prone region.
Remembrance Day dates