Not two minutes before the big earthquake a few days ago, we had just finished a fabulous Street Food Tour run by a competent young chef working for the Eat Mexico Company. Most people don’t care enough to listen to the broken voice of the cancer girl in the wheelchair, but he took me seriously. I learned so much on the tour, ate some delicious food, and felt respected. The young chef had just finished his food tour and loaded us in a cab when the earthquake hit, two hours after everyone in Mexico had their mandatory Earthquake drill and had spilled out of their schools and offices to practice staying safe, a tradition they had kept since the Mexico’s deadliest earthquake of 1985. The taxi driver carefully backed out into the lane while trying to safely deliver us to our hotel. As the taxi backed up the earthquake intensified. Now I’ve been through much bigger earthquakes in Santiago but due to the modern, earthquake-proof buildings, and the subductive fault lines found in the Andes, the terremoto in Mexico felt quite powerful and dangerous. Since Mexico City is built on a lake, the earthquake just grew bigger and bigger until we were just jumping around in the cab. Eventually the cabbie skillfully backed the car into the middle of the road, while Jon and I watched the electrical wires to make sure no live wires fell on our taxi. Mom was scouring the buildings ahead of us and above us and noticed that a building, later identified as a school, was swaying ten feet in every direction. Mom promptly shoots, “That buildings going to collapse!”
Debris fell all around us, but we weren’t hit, not even by a leaf. All the students made it out safely and the building stayed in tact, even though there were chunks of stucco and foundation missing, all the way down to the rebar in some places. Although we weren’t right by the epicenter, we were in a neighborhood that was hit pretty badly, la Rosa. We had no idea where we were, but the cabbie left us in a public park and confidently proclaimed that we would be safe here. He was right! The streets became a sea of humanity as people poured out of buildings to check on loved ones. Since I had lost my phone and both mom and Jon didn’t have their phones on them, communication was a little lacking. Sorry, folks for the unnecessary worry!
Our hotel ceiling played a starring role in the recent Bond movies, and was made of stained glass from Tiffanys, which luckily wasn’t damaged by the earthquake. However, there was damage throughout the building that prevented readmission into the building, even though I had my cancer pills in the hotel. The policemen and firemen were nice enough to go back in and get them for us, since I need the pills to stay alive. As we looked up, we saw the neighboring Dr. Martens building with some serious foundational cracks in it, We figured then that we weren’t getting back into our hotel and we never did. The Gran Hotel put us up in another hotel, which was just big enough to fit three twin beds in it, one for each of us. The next day we went back to the hotel and again we denied admittance onto the property, so a begrudged staff worker made his way up to our room to pack all of our stuff. By pack I mean jam everything into a bag, smash it shut, and zip it up if possible. Needless to say, items were forgotten. In the end, I survived an earthquake, lost some personal items and electronics, saw chaos and perseverance, missed some attractions, ate great food, and had an amazing trip with one hell of a story that only the luckiest unlucky girl could tell!