The Earthquake Chronicles
September 19th, 2017: ANOTHER big earthquake! We're shaken but OK! We jump out of the Uber which is lurching like a car out of gear, running from the menace of the swaying underpass above us. The earth sways like a ship at rough sea but nothing around us falls. So we continue on our journey to Coyoacán only later to discover the disarray into which the city has fallen. We walk from Coyoacán back to the Condesa, about 4 hours.
September 20, 2017:
I join the crowd in Parque México helping to remove rubble from a collapsed building.
Then I am called by friends to help at a ‘centro de acopio’ receiving the mountains of donated goods. I am handed a box full of expensive medications, then a plastic bag containing an old lady’s sweater and a bottle of water. People give what they can.
September 21, 2017:
I spend long days helping out at my favorite restaurant, Pasillo de Humo, where chef Alam Méndez is donating thousands of prepared meals to the volunteers and victims. I direct packing and delivery. A gaggle of motorcyclists carry boxes of meals to an area in Xochimilco where cars cannot pass to deliver food or medications. A moment of much needed levity occurs when a group of Spanish firefighters to whom I have delivered dinners are confused by the food and have no idea what the tortillas are for.
September 22nd: At 10:15 p.m. tonight several people were rescued from a building on Av. Álvaro Obregón, 3 blocks from my house (later 49 bodies would be removed from the site) The city is a strange mix of normalcy and continued state of emergency. People sit in cafes chatting while soldiers march by. When I look out my window at Av. Amsterdam, instead of runners, mothers pushing strollers, people toting yoga mats, I see police, military personnel and brigadistas, clad in hard hats, armed with pick axes and shovels. Right now, 11 p.m. Friday, my neighborhood is eerily quiet, save for the wail of an occasional ambulance. The parks are still full of people who come to mobilize, bring donations and help out in any way they can. Also, many streets are cordoned off because either buildings are expected to collapse or there are gas leaks. We continue to deliver hot meals to military from Israel, Japanese, Venezuelans and the Spanish firefighters.I will be there tomorrow and the next day, as long as I am needed.
September 26th: At one week's distance from the earthquake, life, for many, returns to "normal". Some people suffer from depression, fear and confusion. Some have no homes. A few still lay beneath rubble. No one I know has not been touched by this natural yet unnatural event. I spend my last night as volunteer cooking at a benefit dinner. At midnight I deliver hot chocolates, that I prepare in my kitchen, to a couple of sites near my house.
October 19th: At one month since the quake, the busy life we are all used to in what I like to call The Big Taco is back in swing. We are all trying to get over the varying degrees of post-traumatic stress syndrome we collectively suffer and get back to our usual city-rat neuroses. A few damaged buildings around my colonia linger, some leaning precariously, cordoned off from the street by police tape. At the market, in the Uber, between friends and in business meetings, we all share our “where were you” stories. I won’t forget because I don’t want to. Because I never saw so much love.
Special thanks to: Ana Cristina Méndez, Ramón Oracca, Alam Méndez, and the people of Mexico City.