September 19th, 2017:
ANOTHER big earthquake! We’re shaken but OK! We jumped out of the Uber which was lurching like a car out of gear, running from the menace of the swaying underpass above us. The earth swayed like a ship at rough sea but nothing around us fell.
At 10:15 p.m. tonight several people were rescued from a building on Av. Álvaro Obregón, 3 blocks from my house (later at least 46 bodies would be removed from the site, though a number of people were saved.) 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. I have been volunteering my time helping at centros de acopio—distribution centers—for donated goods. Today I worked with the chefs and staff at Pasillo de Humo with the packing and delivery of hot meals to rescue workers. Thousands were sent out. We delivered to military from Israel, Japanese, Venezuelans and hunky Spanish firefighters who didn’t know what to do with the tortillas until I explained what they are for. I will be there tomorrow and the next day, as long as I am needed.
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 spent my last night as volunteer cooking at a benefit dinner. I then delivered hot chocolate to a couple of sites near my house. This week will live in our collective memory as long as we do.
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 suffered 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.