No words can describe the amount of pain being suffered in Mexico as of September 19th. This has been a surreal, tragic, senseless, painful experience for all the people who had to, and continue to, suffer through the impact of the earthquake. The quake is the second to hit Mexico in a very short time frame, which makes the experience all the more traumatic, all the more absurd. It happened, as if told in the pages of fiction, on the same day of another quake that destroyed lives, years ago. I can only speak for myself. My purpose in sharing this is to offer my own experience of the tragedy, and to give my love and prayers to everyone who faired worst than I did.
I was eating with a colleague at work when it hit. We immediately took to the evacuation zone, a garden close to the exit of the campus I work at, to wait for instructions. They never arrived and for good reason. Everyone, including security, was invested in trying to make sense of what was happening. It felt far stronger than the one that had previously hit. That experience, which had left me traumatized, only served as the baseline to measure just how much more terrible the second one was. My immediate thoughts were whether my family and friends were ok, whether the strength of the quake had been enough to cause serious damages to cause mortality, and just how lucky I was to have been in a safe place. The phone lines crashed, internet did too. I had the luck of contacting those closest to me in the ensuing minutes, except for my sister, who my parents could not get in contact with. She was at her school. Not knowing how she was crushed me inside, and I immediately started to panic. When we were dismissed from campus, I immediately ran toward the building my mother works in. (Luckily, she works close to my work place.) On the way out I stumbled on a friend, who told me that things were bad, that several places in the city had been hit hard by the quake, and that he was planning on going to one of such neighbourhoods to help. This only made me fear for the worst.
As I ran through what I can only describe as apocalyptic chaos -people on the streets filming the whole event, others with pale faces or crying, traffic as far as my eyes could see, radios on full volume detailing what was happening- I felt like I was experiencing absurdity. My jaw was locked, I had a terrible migraine, I was shaking, and I could only repeat in my head that I had to find my mother so that we could figure out how to get to my sister. I got to her after looking for her for a good 20 minutes in the area close to her work place. She was with one of her clients. We took a table on a nearby coffee shop, and discussed our options. The only thing we knew about my sister, was that she was at school and that nobody knew anything about the status of the school, or of the students at the school. That the bridge that connects my neighbourhood to the one her school was, was cut-out (we were told this by a group of people in the coffee shop). And that in all probability, if I didn’t go get her, we were not going to know anything until late into the night when communications were restored. At this point I called a friend who lives a 5 minute drive from my sister’s school, and told him that I was going to find the means to cross over the bridge so that I could go looking for my sister. I really didn’t fucking care if there was no bridge, I had to get to my sister. What ensued was a marathon run from my neighbourhood, through the swarms of agitated and scared people, the news that assaults were going on in the neighbourhood, and the uncertainty that laid ahead. I made it past the bridge and realized just how bad miscommunication and disinformation is. For all I knew, if I had believed what the people on the coffee shop told me about the bridge, I would had made the wrong choice of not going straight for my sister.
I made it to my friend’s house. Another friend who was with him drove me to her school. The cocktail of adrenaline, anxiety, and uncertainty was driving me crazy. The school was fine. I rushed inside and found that my sister was just fine. My soul was at peace. I took a picture of the both of us and sent it to my family. We were all fine. Somehow, we were part of the lucky ones who were unscathed. My friend drove us close to the bridge, and from there we took the walk home. I was extremely agitated because we were warned on the walk home through the bridge to watch out for human scum assaulting cars and people on the bridge. (How far gone must a person be to hurt people during tragedy?). No such thing happened to us. We made it through the bridge, and through the swarms of cars and people in the vicinity, and into my home. My family was there. We were all back together. I immediately crashed. But the feeling I felt of knowing that I had been given the most precious of gifts -the safety of my loved ones- is one that I will never forget, it is something I will forever be thankful for.
In the ensuing hours more and more news came on the effects of the quake. More and more developing stories of those who were hit the most. Honestly, I could not sleep last night, I just could not. I felt impotent. At a loss. I think we were all going through the motions of the sheer tragedy of knowing that so many people had lost their homes, their friends, their family. This hit me in the most personal of ways, as I know it did to all of us who were in it. It was a life and death experience, a crisis, a reminder of how fragile life is, of how on any given day things can just crash and burn and destroy lives, for no apparent fucking reason. What kept me from hitting full blown anxiety, were the messages and prayers from my friends in Mexico and abroad, and learning that there was a sense of solidarity for Mexico and its people: among us in Mexico, and those outside its borders. It reminded me of the close-knit bond we share as a species when tragedy hits us. I am proud to call myself a Mexican and a human. The people who have gone out of their ways to help others on the streets, on the web, on the phone lines, in hospitals, in shelters, in telling their daughters and their sons and their friends and their fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers that they love them and that they have their backs, both Mexican and foreign, all of you are a source of inspiration to me, to the rest of our species, for you are embodiments of the best in humanity.
Today, I am still suffering through the trauma, of what happened and of what is still happening. I am so fucking lucky to be alive, to be able even to talk about the whole situation from a place of safety, to have a home, to be able to say that my family and friends are ok. I am extremely lucky. There are people that are still caught under the weight of crushing concrete, injured people in hospitals, people who have lost their homes and have to spend the night in shelters, people fighting for their lives, people who have lost their family, their friends; so many have lost so very much, so many are fighting to survive, to make it through this senseless tragedy. The news of the children who lost their lives under the weight of their collapsed school, hit the closest to my experience of the earthquake. My sister had made it unscathed, but other children had died at their school. It is a fucking tragedy. If I could, and I know everyone feels this way, I would give anything to save the lives of those children. I so fucking wish I could give their parents, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends -everyone who knew them and loved them- an ounce of meaning, to comfort them, to had been able to protect them, or for them to have had the opportunity I had, the opportunity to be there for my sister.
I so fucking wish I could give everyone, parents, brothers, sisters, grandfathers, grandmothers, friends -everyone who knew and loved someone who was lost to this tragedy- an ounce of meaning, to comfort them, to had been able to protect them, or for them to have had the opportunity I had.
It just breaks my heart knowing others did not have the opportunity to be there for their loved ones. It is so fucking unfair.
My love and my prayers, to all of you, to everyone living through the effects of this tragedy.