I wrote this last night when I couldn’t sleep after the earthquake. It’s funny because I didn’t realize how serious it was at the time. Everyone always tells me that gringas overreact to earthquakes, so I tried to calm my nerves. Turns out this earthquake was 1000 times greater than the one in Haiti, but because of the infrastructure Chile has, the damage will most likely be far less.
So here it goes, my reflections right after the earthquake hit.
I’m writing this offline, at 5:06am, approximately an hour and a half after the earthquake. I was immediately awoken from my sleep sometime around 3:35am and I knew this wasn’t a garden variety temblor that I feel all the time in Santiago. This started off strong and lasted what seemed like an eternity. I bolted from bed and woke up my friend’s mom who happened to be staying with me. We headed for the elevator shafts (the strongest point in most buildings’ structures) and waited it out. We heard glass breaking, people screaming, what seemed like thousands of car alarms going off at once, things falling from the shelves. I’m not sure how long it lasted (I’ll have to wait until the internet is back up to check) but to me it seemed longer than a minute. There were a couple of moments when I thought the entire building was going to collapse; I’m not going to lie. I think I started crying and my face must have been horrible because my friend’s mom kept asking if I was alright.
When it was over, we came back into the apartment to assess the damage (thank God I had my wits about me to grab the keys on the way out!). Nothing broken, just the bookshelf knocked over and some water on the floor of the bathroom which I assumed sloshed out of the toilet. We were without electricity until just a few minutes ago. My friend Liz was trapped in her apartment because she couldn’t get the dead bolt unlocked. The quake must have shifted the door jamb. Someone chopped their door down with an axe. Hardcore. I’m so glad I was able to get out of my apartment. I would have seriously flipped out if I had been trapped.
Right now I can’t sleep because of all the aftershocks and little temblores. I feel like I’m on a ship on the ocean; my building just keeps swaying back and forth. I now know though that if it’s a big one, it starts out big. It’s not like a little temblor is going to increase in intensity to become a big one. Although it’s hard to convince myself of that, even though lots of people have assured me of this and I just experienced it for myself. I would just like to feel as though I’m on solid ground (but I guess in Chile you never really are)!
Of course I’m thinking of Haiti, where the destruction was a million times worse. Of course I can’t come close to feeling what they felt, but I understand the terror of feeling like the ground is falling out beneath you. I’m so grateful that I live in a building that was designed to withstand earthquakes. Really, I should feel relieved every time I feel the building sway! I’ll find out tomorrow what kind of damage the poorer areas of the city withstood. I hope no one was seriously injured, although I keep hearing all sorts of sirens outside. I’m not sure if it’s just the normal Friday night sirens, or if they’re because of the quake.
I really want to email my parents to tell them I’m okay. I realize they have no idea what happened yet, but I’d like my Dad to read my e-mail before he reads the International News online in the morning. Maybe it won’t even make the International News now that I think about it. It’s hard to tell how serious it was. I mean it was definitely the strongest I’ve ever felt here in Chile, and I’m sure it’s the strongest Santiago has had in years, perhaps since 1985.
Ahhh! I just really wish these little temblores would stop. I’d really love to get some more sleep tonight. But my stomach is in a knot and I know I won’t be able to sleep when I feel like I’m at sea. Maybe I should think of it as being rocked to sleep?
Anyway, I’ll post this just as it is later today when the internet comes back. For now I’m going to try to sleep I guess, or maybe read some Breaking Dawn. Nothing like the fake danger of vampires and werewolves to keep my mind off the real possible danger of what I just lived through.