Thursday, March 4, 2010

Natural Disaster.

For my followers and to the people who randomly check in on me... thank you! I appreciate you for being so loyal. It means a lot to me that you stop by, and that you take time from your day to read my blog.

The following is my account of the events that happened on Saturday February 27, 2010.

I told my husband that (Friday) night that I thought we should have tuna sandwiches. I made a big bowl of potatoe salad the night before and I really didn't want it to go to waste. In my heart I knew that it would. He laughed it off, and said that we would eat it tomorrow. And then told me, "It's not going to go to waste. " Ha.

We have made a habit of taking the kids to pizza hut on some Friday nights. It's a short walk and we have enjoyed having a taste of the states pretty close by. Everything was as it should be. We laughed, had a good time. And we made fun of the Chileans for running out of straws. The service was how it always is. Slow. But the pizza was delicious. We didn't leave a single scrap .

We walked the short distance back to our high rise apartment building. Resumed our normal nightly routines, and got the kids into bed. There wasn't anything that was out of place. And by that, I am not referring to my cleaning. In fact, everything was pretty calm.

Maybe a little too calm. Who would know that in a few short hours, our lives would be so incredibly shaken that we would be questioning if we would live or die. In my thirty-err **cough**cough** years, I have never thought that I was about to die. Not once.

Sleep is always a beautiful thing. I treasure it actually. It's one of my favorite things. Since having two kids, I realize how much I used to take it for granted. I may have been dreaming. I certainly don't recall it at this point. I just know that I was most definitely sleeping.

Around 3:43 in the A.M. our queen sized bed complete with two grown adults began to slide back and forth on the hard wood floor. Unlike an alarm that you expect to snap you out of your sleep, being shaken so vigorously is an unnatural way to awaken. We looked at each other as we took only a a few moments to realize what was happening. Earthquake.

{Now at this point having been in the country for approximately 20 months, we have experienced some quakes. Those have been like hiccups in comparison to what was currently at hand.}

My husband said only this, "GET THE KIDS!" I didn't speak, I only ran. To Eddie's room. A blissful, young, innocent and unaware sleeping child lay there. I still don't think I spoke. I snatched that kid out of his bed and into my arms. I heard my husband scream from the other room with intense panic in his voice. "WHERE IS ALEXA!!??!!??!!??" I yelled back, "OUR ROOM!" We both ran back to our bedroom, and she still lay there in the bed. Asleep. He grabbed her up and we went and stood in the door frame of the closet. I cannot even put into simple words how violent the movement was. There were noises. Glass was shattering and falling. It didn't sound close. Maybe from a nearby building. Things were falling. The worst most spooky feeling was the back and forth swaying of our building. This earthquake lasted too long. The shaking went on. Eddie clung to me like a little kangaroo hanging on to his mommy. He didn't say a word. But the fear in his eyes was clear. My heart broke into a million pieces in that moment. I couldn't comfort him. I just felt this alertness that made me very quiet. It was a survival instinct.

I was thinking that my husband was standing close by, with our daughter in his arms. If the building started to fall, there was nothing that I could do. I was helpless. I was so small. The earth was so much larger. And this earthquake, at this moment was supreme. It was having it's moment. And all others beware. The shaking, swaying went on. In these moments I thought we were all going to be dead. Or worse, I would live with some of them missing. Those thoughts were the worst thoughts that I have ever had to live through. My heart hurt to even think them.

It was difficult to stand up. I propped my arms against the frame of the closet door. The sound that went along with this earthquake was (to me) like giant boulders rolling around in a metal pan. It was a very intense and deep rumbling. And you may have heard this before, people say that living through something like this is just like the movies. The movies do get it right, but they are unable to convey the feeling. The belief that you are about to die.

Once the shaking stopped, we scurried in the apartment looking for our flashlights. We were standing in total darkness. My estimate was that this quake lasted at least 90 seconds. I still don't know what the official word is. It felt like it went on forever. When we found our flashlights, we ran to the kids rooms and through our drawers looking for clothes to put on. We dressed with lightning speed. We grabbed a liter of water, my husband's briefcase, cell phone, and our passports. We headed for the staircase.

Ed carried Eddie, and I slung 34 lb Alexa up into my arms. We trucked down those stairs at a quick pace. I thought of the people in the twin towers having to run down 10 times the number that we had to. I felt the survival instint that didn't allow me to think about much more. I was fleeing from the building that had caused me so much terror. The building in my mind was a deathtrap. It was where the scariest event of my life had taken place. There is no feeling that feels worse. Nothing could compare.

We exited to the street and were greeted by other terrified faces. People in their pajamas, with blankets, cell phones and scared faces. Their hair was messsy, they looked pale. Shaken. Literally and figuratively. We sat on the ground for a moment to gain composure.

Ed went to grab the car from underneath the building. It was a short walk from where we stood on the sidewalk. We got in and drove to an open space at the park. We sat there for the next 3.5 hours. During this time, we experienced the strongest of the aftershocks (so far to date) at 6.9. It was so much different being in a car, on the ground, than being 13 stories up. It was strong, but still, felt so much better.

We slept. On and off. We watched the lights in buildings flicker. Most stayed off, in total blackness. There were many aftershocks during this time. After this short sleep, and wait for daylight, we went back to the apartment. We gathered some clothing for all of us and left once again. We drove the US Embassy.

I cannot even begin to tell you the incredible feeling of relief that came over me, just when we drove into that parking lot. It felt safe. We arrived there around 10 A.M. (or so) and were able to use the phones to call our families. Unbeknownst to me, my mother in law had heard news of the quake before I was able to inform my parents. They were worried, scared and panicked for hours before I was able to call. But when I did, I know that they were thankful.

It has been 5 days since the incredible 8.8 earthquake. Thank you God for our lives. The epicenter was 200 miles from Santiago. I know in my heart that things would and could have been much different if the epicenter was closer to us. We have felt (at my last count) over 140 aftershocks. My equilibrium has me feeling like I am constantly moving. I'm anxious. And each and every time it happens, I feel nervous, like it is going to get worse.

I can tell you that living through this has given me immense perspective. Those things I once thought valuable or important, meant nothing. And everything that I owned became trash in a moments time. I am alive today. And I am thankful. I will never take one single day for granted. It is a gift. We all need to treasure the time that we have here on earth, with one another. With our families. Everything else is just fluff. We, as beings are important.

Again, I thank God for our lives. For I would not be here otherwise.

My life right now has changed. I've been back to our apartment twice. Both times I have felt scared. And I certainly did not feel safe. We took pictures of the damage. I believe it is pretty minimal when you compare it to the people closest to the epicenter. I cannot live there again. I am happy though. We have news. My husband has a new assignment and we are leaving Chile.

We are coming home to the United States. Nothing pleases me more. Again. Thanks to God and to the many people out there who have prayed for us, for my family. I appreciate it. More than mere words can express.

My kind friends on facebook have given me love and support with their words. Something that I needed in these days since the quake. I don't know what I would have done if faced with silence. It has meant the world to me. I don't know if they will ever truly know what it means to me.

Thank you all!