As you know, on February 27th, 2010 at 3:34 am local time, there was an earthquake that measured 8.8 on the Richter scale in Chile. It was strongly perceived in six Chilean regions, from Valparaíso in the north to Araucania in the south. The earthquake devastated the country, and there were many casualties. The president of the country declared a “state of catastrophe”.
I am writing from Concepción. My son in law got me a notebook from under the debris. This has been truly catastrophic, no house remained standing, everything fell, and almost everything broke. It was like we were riding on a horse, everything shook furiously. I was awake, sitting on my bed, praying, and when I was about to go back to sleep, the earthquake started. I managed to crawl out of the room and went to find my husband, who couldn’t get up. The desk, which has a bookshelf, broke and fell on my bed. If I hadn’t got out, I would have been crushed under its weight.
My house is very firm, thank God, it’s intact, and so are my sons’, daughters’ and neighbors’, unlike many others, which are very sad to look at. I see God’s mercy here, and I feel it every time He blesses me. I am very grateful to Him because He has protected us all. We have food. We got the power back three days ago, and my hopes grow back. I am just now able to watch TV, and what I see is terrible.
There is no water in many places. I get it from the well and share it with neighbors. At night, the men post guard in several places, as houses are being robbed. In my family, there are eight men who take turns with neighbors to post guard.
This looks like a war, we leave an earthquake behind in order to face another enemy that is the human being, full of an evil spirit, wanting to hurt, ready to steal or arson if they can’t get anything. I look at my granddaughters so pretty, beautiful; I look at my daughters who dress them in large, dark clothes, to cover their beauty so that they will not be harmed, and hidden during the night. It is truly a nightmare.
But we have the power back and each day brings us comfort.
I have my mother with me, full of panic, which she transmits to me at times. She doesn’t want me to leave her alone. I went to Penco looking for her and found her sitting on a hill, getting wet as it was raining a little. The sea, overflowing, covered all the houses up to 1 meter. Everything is horrible, fetid, with seaweed, kelp and rotten fish. The walls are cracked. My mother doesn’t want to go back to her house ever again. A part of it needs to be demolished.
Well, we have finally reached calm; I can retell all this in a somewhat messy way. I am still in shock, but there is peace in my soul, and that inner strength helps me function. After writing this, I will go to the kitchen to bake some bread, as we are a group of 25 people, and we need to eat.
Of the patients in Concepción, I have been able to contact five, only one of which is in serious difficulties. The others don’t answer the phone, or there is no phone-line.
From Temuco, I have spoke to only five patients. One of them has problems; he needs to demolish his house in Puerto Saavedra. The City Hall should help him locally.
I hope that, some time from now, when communications go back to normal, I will be able to talk with everyone. Besides, we are somewhat isolated, there is only one bridge to cross the Bío-Bío river, and it takes many hours to cover the whole region, my family does it on a bicycle.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone for their concern, and I transmit this to every patient I find.
God bless you all,
One week later, some members of Maxi-Vida Chile in Santiago decided to travel through the affected regions to bring food, diapers and milk, and any other help they might need. The spokesmen of the corporation, Felipe and Daniel, as well as José Raúl, a new friend who decided to lend them his jeep, took off for Concepción on March 19th.
It was a long and difficult journey, as there were many cracks on the road. Once there, they met María Elena, and together they visited patient by patient giving them the food and help they had brought, according to the needs of each family. Every patient they saw was deeply thankful; not only for the aid, but also for letting them feel they were not alone at this terrible time.
After a day of visiting patients in Concepción, they moved on to Talca, and then to Bucalemu, where Inés told them there was another patient in serious trouble. Finally, that night, the members of Maxi-Vida traveled back to Santiago. As they wrote, “it was Maxi-Vida’s heart the one who visited the families”.
To sum up, I would like to translate the last paragraph of the report the members of Maxi-Vida sent to Inés last week, about their journey and their feelings about this experience.
“What we will remember the most is the phrase that we heard from many of our patients, “cancer didn’t beat me, and neither did the earthquake”. Those of us who see death so close, like each of the ones who are members of this corporation, know that life is to be experienced day by day; it’s a war in which every day is a battle. The earthquake only made us stronger because we know that our friends and other patients are out there, praying and thinking of us.”