destruction

By: ewhite422

Jun 18 2010

Category: Uncategorized

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You can smell the smog of Mexico City from miles away.  It is not a bad smell, more like cooking oil that has been used over and over.  As we flew through the clouds using only instruments, I knew when we were getting close by the familiar smell.  It was Friday, September 20th, the day after the earthquake.  We had no idea what to expect.

We were worried about our church members.  We had no idea if our house had been affected.  We could have flown to the US to wait things out, but we just couldn’t.  We had to go.

As our single engine plane descended, finally breaking out of the clouds and smog, I saw destruction everywhere.  Buildings in shambles.  Mangled steel and concrete blocked streets.  I was in shock as the wheels touched down on runway 05 Right.  I felt as though we were moving in slow motion…that all was surreal.

While my husband parked the plane, my plan was to find a taxi to take us to our home, which was located on Ajusco, a mountain to the south of the city about an hour’s drive without traffic.  On some occasions, we battled traffic for up to 3 hours, so we had no idea how long it would take us to arrive home on day like this. 

I heard someone call my name.  I was shocked to see a young woman and her husband from our church waving to me from the waiting area.  I ran to her and hugged her tightly.  “How did you know we would be here?”  I asked, incredulous.

“We just had a feeling you would be arriving now, so we came to pick you up and tell you what we know about everyone in the church,”  she said.

“Oh yes, please!” I cried and held my breath to hear what came next.

“First of all, we have been in touch with almost everyone, and they are safe,” she said.

I exhaled.

By this time, we were bumping along in our church’s Volkswagon van, swerving to miss debris while passing building after building in ruins.

We finally arrived home and to our surprise, our house was not damaged.  Our housekeeper had lunch waiting as though she knew we would arrive.  All afternoon and into the night, church members came to our home to tell us their stories.

John, the visiting minister from Florida, was amazed, just as we were.

One young man told of being trapped in the subway as he made his way to work on Thursday morning.  We had emphasized to our college students that they needed to be on time for events, especially work, so he sat in the subway thinking that he could have really made an impression on his boss, if he had been able to be on time, in spite of the earthquake.  He finally was allowed to leave the subway after an hour or so, but as he approached his workplace, the building fell down right in front of his eyes.

Another church member told of having the sense of being “shoved” into the hallway outside her apartment.  The ceiling of the room she just left crashed behind her.

We asked about the church building after we were satisfied that all church members were safe.  “You won’t believe this!” said the doctor who had met us at the airport with his wife.  “The building in front of our church is condemned and the building behind it as well.  But our building is okay.”

We looked at each other in amazement.  I have no explanation for why we did not lose anyone in the earthquake.  I can only say that, in this case, we heard story after story of “amazing escapes.”  Yet, as I have reflected on this over the years since then, I have reminded myself that there are many sincere believers who did not escape…not from the earthquake, not from 9/11, not from Hurricane Katrina, or any myriad of disasters.  So I am not making any theological statement about Christian triumphalism. 

All I can say is what we experienced.

In the early evening, we sat in our dining room sipping hot chocolate and hearing all the stories, when I noticed the fireplace tools shaking.  I looked up, and the light fixture hanging over the table was swaying back and forth.  Our guest, John, exclaimed, “We’re having an aftershock!”

That evening was scary, but the next day was worse.

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