Before the earth shakes there’s a siren. That’s what they tell you.
But every time I’d heard the siren it was followed by a lot of panic and little else. So just before midnight as I was lying in bed reading I decided not to get up when I heard the commotion. The noise had never resulted in anything before anyway. Eventually, it stopped.
But then the lights flickered here in Mexico City.
And then the closet door swung open.
I looked at the hanging clothes beginning to sway back and forth and gently shook my sick and sleeping girlfriend awake, speaking calmly so as not to scare her.
Now, as a country boy from Southern Ontario who became a city dweller in Toronto, I have absolutely zero experience with earthquakes. In fact, when we first arrived here the thought of them kept me awake some nights. My girlfriend, born and raised in Toronto, had never felt one either. So given that our first experience was the biggest earthquake to hit the country in a hundred years, I think we handled it pretty well.
It felt like our mattress – which rests on the floor, bohemian style – was floating on choppy water. I’ve been told this is indicative of the difference between this recent earthquake and the one that leveled Mexico City in 1985. The earth last week moved back and forth, rather than up and down.
After the shaking stopped we checked on the pets and made our way outside to talk with the neighbors. There we were promptly scolded for not running outside as soon as we heard the alarm. I’ve read many conflicting things about what to do in the event of an earthquake. Should you run outside and risk being hurt by falling debris? Or stay inside and risk the potential collapse of the building? Here, as you may have seen on the news, they evacuate. Often in their pajamas. Maybe you can weigh in in the comments section with your earthquake advice.
In the days since though, hearing people’s stories about the earthquake hasn’t been able to sway me one way or the other, though it’s been interesting. One friend was sitting on the patio of a taco restaurant and when he heard the alarm he walked into the middle of the street. As things around him began to shake he watched giant cement planters stuck to each balcony of a nearby building fall onto each other in a domino effect, eventually crashing to the street and destroying the building’s entrance.
Another friend told me about how he had to drag an old woman away from under dangling power lines. Other people talked about groping through darkened stairwells as they were tossed against walls or watching the strange green light in the sky as transformers exploded around the city.
Surveying The Damage
Little was changed the next day. All school was canceled so officials could ensure the structural stability of the buildings, some friends still don’t have water, and there was a weird energy the next night at the concert I attended. That’s where I collected most of my friends’ stories. But life goes on.
Other parts of the country weren’t so lucky.
In the small fishing village of Bahía de Paredón seven out of 10 homes have been totally lost, reports La Jornada. The death toll is now at 96 people, concentrated in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, and Tobasco. Aid is pouring into the largely impoverished areas even as the country deals with hurricane damage on its opposite coast.
Obviously, other parts of the world are reeling from their own natural disasters -- including plenty of folks in Texas and Florida. The outpouring of support for each of them has been inspiring, to say the least. If anyone feels compelled to donate to the victims in Mexico, the Mexican Red Cross is a good place to start.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday, he offers views about his adopted hometown -- his personal Dispatches from Mexico City.