Part 3 of the earthquake series.
2 days after (April 18,2016)
First thing the next morning, I boiled some bottled water to cook some rice before the kids woke up hungry. It was easy for them to sleep in, the city was quiet and we were all exhausted.
Carlos and I watched out the window, as 2 large military trucks parked across the street. They were loaded with men in full uniform. Most of them jumped from the back of the truck and dispersed in every direction. A few remained in the truck parked outside for an hour or more, before driving several hundred yards down the road and parking again. This activity continued for most of the day.
Shortly after the kids had woken up and had breakfast, Carlos noticed that there were a few young men next door digging through the rubble at the hotel. They were tossing bricks and broken furniture out from the paneless windows. They told him that they had been hired by the hotel owners. These men were not equipped for this job: they we not wearing gloves, boots, or hard hats. They did not even use a shovel. After a brief conversation, they told Carlos that they were hungry and had not eaten since the earthquake. We immediately poured out the remaining rice on the stove and fed them. We poured them a couple of glasses of water.
I immediately went to the kitchen and made another pot of rice. They ate that, too. After they finished, they helped to remove a few big pieces of roof that blocked the entrance to the garage. This gave Carlos the ability to get inside and access the water cistern. We didn’t yet know if we could drink this water, but we could use it for washing and to boil for cooking.. and if absolutely necessary we could boil it and take our chances with drinking it.
We decided to take a stroll around town to see what the devastation was. We were lucky to come across one pedal taxi that was in service. It would have been difficult to navigate the mess with our two young children. There were no words for what we saw. It was the stage of what we have only seen and believed to be true in the movies. Or maybe of places we have seen on TV, of faraway lands in war zones. Everything was broken, destroyed, crumbled, demolished. Antique furnishing were pulled into the streets, where owners had tried to salvage any little thing they could reach. Make shift camps of mattresses and sheets or plastic, some survivors were still sleeping. We can imagine that these were the men who had stayed up all night… the protectors of the families that lived here now and of the bodies still buried underneath. These were guards of the properties where there was nothing left to guard, but it was everything they had.
After our “tour”, we decided that we had seen maybe 25 single family homes that appeared to be as untouched as ours. In a neighborhood of 20,000 people- we were by far among the lucky ones. We felt that 90% of the city was damaged. We would find out almost a week later that these numbers weren’t far off. The assessments came back to show that 60% of the city was categorized as unsalvagable, 35% dangerous & condemned. This means, that the city is now only 5% habitable!!!
We returned that afternoon with heavy hearts, now knowing the full extent of the loss within the community.
As we sat together, reflecting on our incredibly fortunate circumstances- we heard a voice calling out for Carlos. We stepped outside to see 5 of the soccer kids and one young boy (maybe around age 8). They had come to ask for food. They too, were hungry. We gave them the remaining rice on the stove, and once again I made a second pot full while they waited. They did not eat it, but asked for a container to take “home” to the rest of their families. After they left, we talked about how to help these people, wondering if there was aid on the way, if any stores would open soon. We did not have the answers, but we did have rice. The best we could do for now, was to share was little we had. From then on, there would always be a pot of rice on the stove, ready to feed whoever needed it.