Tense and Tragic Day

Today, Mexico experienced a tense and tragic day. At 1:15 pm local time, Esther and I were sitting comfortably in a luxury movie theater on the 4th floor of Reforma 222, a modern shopping mall on Paseo de la Reforma. Ten minutes into the new Tom Cruise film, our seats began to roll. At first, we thought that this might have been part of the premium theater experience. As the shaking continued, and the movie screeched to an abrupt stop, we quickly realized that something was terribly wrong. We shot out of our seats, popcorn in hand, and dashed to the emergency exit on the side of the movie screen. As we rushed toward the exit, the shaking intensified, and it was difficult to keep our balance. As small debris rained down on us from the ceiling above, it felt like we were trying to walk on the deck of a small boat in the middle of an angry ocean.

Palma street scene

Chaos on the streets of Mexico City

Stumbling out the emergency exit, we encountered wobbling movie goers and theater staff frantically trying to decide how to save themselves. People were pressed up against the wall, as if petrified. The emergency stairwells were pitch dark, and seemingly impassable. We made a quick decision to run toward the theater entrance, and immediately found ourselves back out in the shopping mall. Now, all we could think about was getting down four floors and out onto the street. Trying to stay calm, we followed the crowd of thousands down the stairs and inoperable escalators to the ground floor, and sprinted out onto the street.

Reforma

Street scene on Paseo de la Reforma just after quake

Paseo de la Reforma is a wide boulevard with expansive pedestrian sidewalks. The theater is in the financial district, amidst the city’s tallest and most modern skyscrapers. Out on the street, vehicles were stopped, and hundreds of thousands of people were standing in shock. We saw paramedics administering individuals first aid. A pregnant woman holding her lower abdomen, was escorted through the crowd by concerned medical personnel. Helicopters circled overhead, and emergency vehicle sirens seemed to converge on us from every direction.

Police vehicles

Emergency vehicles stuck in gridlocked traffic

People looked at their phones anxiously, as they tried to place a call or send a text. We tried to notify our family by cell phone, but the circuits were overwhelmed, and we could not get through. Eventually, we made our way back to our apartment building, and went into the lobby. The manager informed us that the building had suffered some cosmetic damage, but that the power and water were functional, and it was safe to go up to our third floor unit. Inside the apartment, we were able to access wifi to send out text messages and an Instagram post to our family and friends back home.

Damage 1

Buildings cracked and crumbled

Worried about the potential for aftershocks, we decided to pack a day pack with clothes, food, water, and our important documents, and go back out onto the street. We wandered the streets for hours, finding broken windows, broken glass, structural damage and concrete rubble throughout the neighborhoods. Police barricades prevented us from seeing the most severely damaged structures. People stared at the damage in awe, and a strange somber silence fell upon the street scene. Meanwhile, traffic choked the streets, with drivers standing outside their vehicles with nowhere to go.

Driver fixing wire

Passing truck driver heroically repairs fallen overhead wires

Eventually, the traffic gridlock began to loosen up and the people on the street started to walk home. It will probably be several hours before they make it to their destinations. At this point, we decided to head back to our apartment, make dinner, and watch the television news. On the news, we learned that the quake had registered a 7.1 magnitude and was centered in the state of Puebla, approximately 75 miles (120 km) southeast of our location in downtown Mexico City. The death toll had already exceeded 100, and is certain to expand significantly in the days ahead.

Megaphone Man

First responders organize evacuation efforts

Ironically, this was the 32nd anniversary of the historic 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed 10,000 people. In recognition of the 1985 event the city had just completed an extensive earthquake simulation drill two hours before today’s real deal. The timing of the simulation certainly facilitated evacuation efforts and definitely helped to save lives. This evening, as the images of the damage and on-going rescue efforts continue to play non-stop on the local news stations, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be safe and sound in the comfort of our apartment. On this tense and tragic day, millions of other Mexico City residents were not so lucky.

Blogger’s Note: The following photos show some of the damaged buildings that we saw in just a few square blocks around our apartment. They are not representative of the damage to Mexico City. There are several buildings around the city that have completely collapsed, many with people still inside. Emergency personnel are currently working through the night to try to rescue the trapped.   

Damage 5

Damage 4

Damage 3

Damage 2

Broken windshield

Damage 6

Blogger’s Note: The day following the earthquake, we went into the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods, and witnessed some of the significant damage, including a collapsed six-story building. The destruction is staggering, and the victim’s losses are heartbreaking. The rescue efforts are heroic, and the volunteer efforts are overwhelming.

x school collapse

Collapse of Six-Story Building

x volunteers

Massive volunteer efforts at the collapsed building site

x posts

Volunteers stand ready with support posts at the collapse site

x car

Property damage is everywhere

 

20 thoughts on “Tense and Tragic Day

    • Thank you for your concern and best wishes, Dave & Sue. I just checked the USGS website, and there were no significant aftershocks overnight. After yesterday, we are all hoping for some calm and quiet.

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    • Thank you, Janis. I knew our WordPress friends would be wondering about us. Looking out the window this morning, the city seems to be slowly returning to normal. We had a scare, but were not really impacted by the disaster. The lives of so many locals; however, will never be the same.

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    • Thank you for your concern, Marty. We saw some horrific damage today, including a six-story building that collapsed. The site was frantic, but organized, as hundreds of rescue workers and thousands of volunteers worked to find and free those trapped inside the flattened structure. We are heartbroken for the families affected by the tragedy, and are certainly counting our own blessings.

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  1. I can’t imagine how frightening that was! Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know that you and your wife are safe. I’m so sorry for all the victims of that terrible quake, and hope that help is on the way. Praying for you all….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Ann for you concern. Faced with such a sudden emergency situation, we just reacted instinctively to exit our enclosed space and get outside as quickly as we could. How terribly frightening it would be to be stuck under thousands of tons of rubble, or be a rescue worker crawling between the layers of a collapsed building in search of survivors. The wonderful people of Mexico certainly appreciate your prayers.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kirstie. I am happy that you got word. We are counting our blessings. So many others were not so fortunate. The people of Mexico have had a difficult 48+ hours. They are exhausted, and so are we.

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  2. You were the first (and only) people who came to my mind when I heard of the earthquake. Checked the blog space and found you were fine. Didn’t have the time to read in detail and respond at that time. Hence doing it now. Glad to know that you found your way out of the building and your apartment was also safe.
    But heart goes out to all those who suffered so much of loss due to this calamity.
    I was also thinking of the connect that we feel with those we meet in this blogspace… MIles apart, never met in person, know each other only through words, but still want to make sure they are safe!
    Our earth is still a good place to live… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Friend, Thank you so much for your concern, and your sentiments toward those that were not as fortunate as us. The blogspace is truly a fine place to unite with others like you who are trying to describe and make sense of this wonderful and sometimes unfair world. I wholeheartedly agree that the earth is still a good place to live, except when it decides to shake too much.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tim and Anne, I am happy that you got word that we are alright. Thank you for your concern, and for thinking of those that lost their homes and loved ones in this terrible tragedy. Many schools and businesses are re-opening this morning, as the city tries to get back on its feet. It will take some time.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow- how horrifying that you two were in a movie theater! We experienced the 8.1 Oaxaca quake in Oaxaca City (no big damage in the city). It was enough shaking to last me a lifetime.

    Glad you are okay. Continued prayers for Mexico.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Growing up along the San Andreas fault, I have felt my share of quakes, but this 7.1 was the biggest. I can only imagine what an 8.1 was like. I am glad that you survived it unscathed. Thank you for your concern, and prayers for the people of Mexico.

      Liked by 1 person

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