UN mourns tragic loss in Haiti earthquake

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One week after the United Nations suffered the most deadly incident in one day, hundreds of UN staff came together with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a minute of silence and a candle-lit vigil to mourn the lives lost in Haiti's earthquake.

Underneath the blue United Nations flag that once hung at the UN headquarters in Haiti, Ban watched as two peacekeeping officers set down an elegant floral wreath composed of white roses, daisies and lilies.

The United Nations Singers performed a soft hymn as Ban saluted the two officers, who flanked each side of the flag, which now hangs on a wall in the visitor's lobby of the UN Headquarters in New York. Then in a minute of silence, which was uncouthly announced over a loud speaker, the singing stopped and Ban bowed his head.

At 4:53 p.m. EST, the exact moment when the earthquake struck on Jan. 12, the only thing that could be heard through the vast hall of the United Nations Headquarters was the echoing sound of clicking cameras.

With 46 UN staff confirmed dead from the 7.3-magnitude earthquake and more than 500 hundred still missing, almost everyone here knew at least one person who perished in the disaster.

The chief of the UN Mission in Haiti Hedi Annabi, his deputy Luiz Carlos da Costa, and Acting Police Commissioner Doug Coates of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were among other UN officials who lost their lives.

A minute gone and Ban saluted the officers once more, turning on his heels to shake hands with a few from the crowd. He then made his way outside the building, followed by hundreds into the grey dusk of a Manhattan winter evening.

The UN flag, raised at half staff, looked over the crowd as they quietly made their way into the court yard. One by one, each person took a candle and tipped their wick into one already set ablaze.

Ban lit several candles with his own, as a group of young Korean children looked on in amusement, seemingly unaware of the tragedy that was being honored.

As Ban disappeared into the center of the crowd, the choir began to sing again. As if written in a storybook, the clouds themselves began to weep a light mist.

UN staff members bowed their heads and cupped their hands around their candle's flame, protecting it from a gentle breeze. A plane passed overhead, which seemed to thunder above the crowd's deathly silence.

Several minutes later, Ban left the crowd, candle in hand, and wife trailing behind.

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