Remarks to the Memorial Ceremony in Honour of Those Killed in the Haiti Earthquake
by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 9 March 2010
Above all, dear families of those to whom we sadly bid farewell:
Let us begin by thanking the families and friends who have traveled far to be with us. To those who could not be here, please know that our hearts are with you.
We are joined by duty stations around the world — the men and women of our proud United Nations.
Among them are the members of our UN mission in Haiti, who have carried on despite their pain and hardship.
I thank Mr. Edmond Mulet and his courageous staff who are working tirelessly - day in, day out – in MINUSTAH [UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti]. I highly commend [you] and I am deeply grateful to all of you.
Today, we commemorate the single greatest loss the UN has suffered in its history.
We remember 101 lives of consequence.
We honor 101 unique paths that joined in Haiti to write the larger story of the United Nations.
These women and men were our own. They were family.
They came to Haiti from all corners of the world, from all walks of life.
Yet they shared a common conviction … a belief in a better future for the people of Haiti, and a common resolve to help them build it.
Now those 101 paths come together one final time, here in this chamber, through us … families and friends, colleagues and loved ones.
The world knew them as trusted diplomats, dedicated humanitarians and conscientious professionals.
They were doctors and drivers, police officers and policy advisers, soldiers and lawyers — each contributing to the mission, each in his or her own way.
To us they were even more.
We knew them, very personally. We knew their smiles, their songs, their dreams.
Now we cannot forget the last email, the last conversation, the last meal together, the last au revoir.
Their words echo: "Don't worry about me. This is where I need to be."
At the United Nations, we don't simply share office space; we share a passion for a better world.
So it is no surprise that many of these 101 paths criss-crossed the globe through the years.
In Cambodia and the DRC. Eritrea and East Timor. Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
Whether they came to Haiti … or came from Haiti … they knew that hope shines in even the darkest corners.
And so they chased the flame. Wherever they went, they carried the light of hope.
And as they fulfilled their mission in Haiti, they illuminated a profound truth:
Earthquakes are a force of nature, but people move the world.
Today, our hearts are heavy with a burden almost too difficult to bear.
Yet perhaps like you, it is gratitude that I feel most of all.
Gratitude to the international community for the spontaneous, whole-hearted and unstinting support in the face of this tragedy.
Gratitude to the rescue teams, aid workers, governments and NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] that rallied to our side, determined to help Haiti to recover and, in time, to “build back better.”
Gratitude to the people of Haiti, for their strength, resilience and faith … the faith of human spirit, the spirit that burns in all of us today.
I commend and appreciate the leadership of President [René] Preval and his Government and his people
Gratitude fills this chamber — profound thanks that our world and our lives were touched by the grace and nobility of these 101 UN heroes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In life, we are measured by the company we keep.
To those here today, let us know that this is our measure. This is the company we keep.
To those we have lost, let us say: we will never forget you. We will carry on your work.
In a moment we will read out their names … the roll call of highest honor.
Look at their pictures. Look into their eyes. Remember their smiles and their dreams.
Together we stand … in honor of the victims … and in deepest sympathy for the bereaved.
May I now ask you to rise and join me in a minute of silence. Thank you.