Part 2 of the Earthquake Series.
First published on April 25, 2016
The day after (April 17,2016):
The next morning when we woke up, we honestly, just sat and stared at our surroundings for a very, long time. There were no words for what the daylight revealed.
There was still dust hanging in the air, it swirled and tucked through the half fallen buildings, sunken roofs, and piles of rock. The utility poles had a new lean and the streets and sidewalks had acquired ripples and “steps” that weren’t there before.
There wasn’t anybody around, and there wouldn’t be many at all until the next day. It was a ghost town. It felt like any scene we’ve seen in the movies a hundred times, a hopeless & forgotten skeleton of society. I’m sure that in those hours, we were all afraid to leave the sides of our families. Afraid that another tremor could and would separate us from those that we loved most. Those of who had not fled, we’re staying very, very close to “home”.
Carlos ventured into the house first. I held my breath and prayed for the first time in years… please, don’t let anything fall on him. Please, don’t let another quake come now and trap him inside. PLEASE!
But, thankfully nothing happened and a few minutes later he returned. He said that it was a mess, but that it was intact. We waited outside for a while, examining the hotel, buildings, light pole and any structures that could potentially keep falling (into or onto the house).
While we did have some concerns about the stability of the adjacent hotel, we felt that it was safe enough to return with a few precautions in mind. We would all stay on the first floor, in the living room… as far as we could get from the falling wall. We hoped that if there were any moving bricks, they would land on the 2nd floor and give us a few seconds to get out. We made a plan for future earthquakes or the event of the hotel wall falling: we would run to the kitchen, the farthest room from the hotel, and barricade ourselves in the corner and behind the refrigerator. It was close to a window and an exterior wall, should we need to be rescued.
With our escape plans mapped out, Carlos set to work cleaning up the mess while I waited outside with the kids. The biggest problem of our clean up was that most of the contents of our kitchen: cabinets, cupboards, and refrigerator had spilled on to the floor.
This created the dilemma of food. There certainly weren’t going to be any stores/markets open, and even if they were… none of us had electricity anyway, or running water. We were fortunate to discover that we did have propane in our tank, and the stove still worked! And we had enough water in the cistern that Carlos could reach it with a bucket.. but it required him to crawl through the mess of garage where the roof had caved in. AND we found an intact bag of rice! We knew that with this, we had more than most. That we could survive!
The rest of the day was rather uneventful, unless you count the 3 times that we ran out into the street..swooping the kids up from their play and dragging the dogs from their naps… to escape whatever might fall in the aftershocks.
These aftershocks were awful, sending us into complete panic as we scurried under the prospect of another earthquake. They left us on pins and needles, afraid to have the kids or each other more than an arms reach away. None of us wanted the others to be trapped alone inside, not for one second. We made a pact, that if one was trapped… all were trapped. And for the next days that we spent in that house, we followed eachother around like a train. To the kitchen, to the bathroom, to the living room. No one was allowed to go upstairs or to the laundry area. No one was to be left alone in the house.
It was hard to sleep that first night after. We were afraid of everything (or at least I was). It was dark without the city lights. We used only 1 candle in the house. We were virtually alone in the neighborhood. We knew there could be aftershocks, could be a falling hotel.. could be looters in the area. The night was long with dark setting in before 7 pm and staying until nearly 7 am.
Not only was it a long night, but we knew it would be a long week by that point. We had received information early in the day that we should expect to receive electricity and maybe running water in 8 days. 8 days! 8 days without food, water, electricity… is a really long time.