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VIEWPOINT: Observe moment to remember Haiti's strife today

On Jan. 12, 2011, consider making it a point to be silent for 35 seconds -- yes, seconds -- at 3:53 p.m. CST.

If you happen to work in downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis, you may be reminded of this as the bells at the Cathedral, Basilica of St. Mary and Minneapolis City Hall, will ring at this most unusual time of day.

Why Jan. 12 at precisely 3:53 p.m. for only 35 seconds?

One year earlier, at precisely this time of day, and for this tiny period of time, an earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the mountain area to the south and west, snuffing out the lives of up to 300,000 people and rendering well over 1 million people homeless.

Not only that, but the offices of the national government were destroyed.

In effect, the earthquake was analogous to instantly killing one of every seven residents of Woodbury; leaving one of every two or three homeless; destroying the State Capitol in St. Paul, and all government buildings there; and destroying the St. Paul Cathedral as well.

It is now a year later, and for reasons far beyond the Haitians' control or even influence, most of the Haitian homeless on Jan. 12, 2010, remain functionally homeless to this day.

The reasons for this are far beyond "sound bites" which so often are passed along as fact.

Adding to the injury is a massive outbreak of cholera in Haiti - a previously unknown disease in the country, imported by someone from outside who carried it into the country with him or her.

The bells and other observances around this very sad anniversary are simply reminders to all of us to not put places like Haiti, or people like the Haitians, out of our consciousness.

We are a rich place, full of wealth, and we need to be ongoing participants in the recovery of places like Haiti.

For more information about the genesis of this observance, see blog/?m=20101216