Personal Transformation Experience
Mexico Earthquake Rescue Efforts
On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, around midday, an earthquake shook the central region of Mexico. In many areas of Mexico City, the alarm did not sound, and many people were not able to evacuate.
In spite of the quake, I could hear screams from my neighbour, who was terrified because she was looking after her granddaughter and afraid to leave her apartment. When everything finally stopped shaking I left my apartment and helped them get down to the street where many people were gathered, afraid to go back in the buildings.
Most of us didn´t realise the magnitude of the event until we saw the news. Seeing the photos and videos that night, showing the damage, we felt compassion and sadness. The phone lines were saturated, making it impossible to communicate with each other.
The zones less affected were left without services such as power, water and internet. Certain building had lost their facades or part of their walls. Others were more affected, many collapsing, destroying people´s belongings and property.
In other areas, people were less fortunate and were trapped under the rubble when they didn´t have time to get out. Slowly the list of missing persons began to go down.
Some towns near Mexico City lost everything. They were left without medicines and food. No one was able to give them medical attention or help remove the rubble to look for their family members.
In the midst of so much horror and pain, the citizens united and mobilised in just a few hours. Brigades were formed at midnight and tents put up to plan what was to be done. In my heart I asked Swami to enlighten me and allow me to help.
The next day I got some gloves and a helmet and went to some of the sites that were forming brigades through the internet. When I arrived, I was moved by the number of people offering to help. The crowd was so large that I wasn´t able to offer my services. Long lines of volunteers had formed offering to help search for people trapped under building. Crews were organised to enter as carefully as possible due to the large number of volunteers gathered there. However, once the crowd was silenced to begin work, the people raised their fists in a sign of unity, and the only sound that could be heard was the traffic in distant streets.
All along the streets, people were collecting provisions, bottled water, offering their homes for the people who had lost theirs. Groups of motorcyclists travelled all over the city carrying provisions, many construction workers came to help. Restaurants and cafes offered free meals for the volunteers. Many buses passed carrying people to other towns and cities with shovels and sledgehammers.
I took a taxi to get from one place to another wherever I could help. When we got there and tried to pay, the taxi driver just shook his head, saying “The ride´s free, thanks for helping.” We thanked him and got out.
In spite of the fact that most businesses and institutions were closed, the streets were full of people showing their solidarity and love for their fellow Mexicans, in spite of the fear of a possible collapse in the area. They just wanted to offer their support of food, water, clothes or words of consolation.
The first night, like many others, I had a hard time sleeping. I was afraid to close my eyes, but I also felt ashamed thinking of Swami. In spite of trying all day, I hadn´t been able to help anyone and I was afraid He would think I was lazy and cowardly.
The next day I remembered hearing about a donation centre for provisions and medicines in a nearby park. I went there and said that I wanted to help. I was assigned the area of food where we began receiving kilos of food, canned goods, hygiene products, toys, clothes, blankets and tools.
We were told to unload trucks and distribute supplies we had put together with love, as well as the love from those who had donated the provisions after driving across town to donate them. People passing in their cars noticed our banners hung in the street, asking for personal hygiene products or nappies for the people who had lost their homes. Many, many of them came back after going to buy these things at the store. Many used their cell phones to share the information on social media.
Everyone there were volunteers, many sleeping in the park because they had lost their homes. Others had to take public transportation, travelling more than an hour to reach the park. At the end of the shift, they had to make the same trip home to rest up and come back the next day. Sometimes members of the rescue brigade would ask for food and water. They looked exhausted and were covered in dust. They always came back each day.
The neighbours would come out and offer their bathrooms, food or places just to rest. Therapists, psychologists, doctors, clowns for the children came to help, and brigades of cooks would bring trays of hot food to feed us. Young people would give us bags of candy or fruit. Shelters were opened for people and their pets, who also received food. After a few days I was sent to the area for medicines and treatment, where we packed gauze, syringes, cotton, bandages and medicines. The task was the same: help anyone, show them that they are not alone or abandoned. Over the weekend I donated blood and had to wait hours in line because so many had showed up to do the same thing.
Although much is still to be done, we are very grateful to the rest of the country, for the international rescue brigades, to the press and the neighbours and people who donated to the rescue people or who gave provisions.
Over the past few days Swami has allowed me to know so many new people, and often we didn´t know each other´s names. Some of them I have seen again in the park, others had to return home after first donating provisions. Daphne, the group coordinator, told me that she has three small children who she left with her mother in another state to be able to dedicate all her timed to the centre.
So many people have passed through that park, through all the parks with donation centres, like where I am doing Seva, that for a short time I forget that we are all one and that among so many strangers, Swami has allowed me to know Him through the hands that help others selflessly.