Lessons in Strength and Solidarity from the Mexico City Earthquake

Seconds before 1:15 p.m. on September 19, the Earth reminded us just how fragile life is.

As soon as we felt the first movement, and the seismic alert confirmed what was happening, our Mexico City team suspended a call with team members in five countries and took to the streets. Words can’t describe the emotions that engulfed us during the next hours and days.

Fear and joy, anxiety and solidarity, nervousness and hope.

Just two hours before, we had participated in a simulation in honor of the victims of the devastating earthquake exactly 32 years before. While for some residents of Mexico City these exercises are a repetitive protocol, we in AIDA always follow them because our team consists of professionals from across Latin America, some who don’t have experience with earthquakes. So luckily our team knew what to do.

We met at the rendezvous point, as best we could. We were relieved to learn the teams of AIDA and CEMDA—with whom we share offices—were all safe and accounted for. But the calm was short-lived, as reports came in from nearby streets: building collapses, gas leaks, the loss of power and communication.

The city suspended all activities. Those who were able showed up to help. Damaged streets were flooded with volunteers. Astrid Puentes, co-director of AIDA, gave shelter to our team in her nearby home. Those who could returned to their homes at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the house where one of our interns was staying was left uninhabitable.

These have been difficult days. Work was put on hold as our team joined the relief efforts.

We have seen so many signs of solidarity. Despite the tragedy, the humility and confidence of the Mexican people has awakened in us a new sense of hope. Everyone could help in some way. We’ve seen therapists, lawyers, motorcyclists, cooks, blacksmiths, architects, masons, journalists, and clowns offering their knowledge and experience to one cause: helping the victims, whether they knew them or not.

We won’t emerge from this situation unscathed. While AIDA’s office remains in good condition, the news of friends who have lost loved ones or their homes continues to arrive. But we’ve seen the spectacular strength and resilience of Mexico’s people; they work with their hands as well as their hearts.  We know now that the reconstruction that awaits us will have its foundation in solidarity and empathy.

We’re confident that the millions of people who have been awakened, who are acting as conscious and involved citizens, will continue working for our city and our country. And we return to our work this week conscious that thousands of people still need help, not just in Mexico City, but also in the states of Morelos, Puebla, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tabasco, and Chiapas.

We will work for them and for the whole continent. We will work for the Earth, which has reminded us that life is but an instant, and that it’s always worth fighting for.

-- In solidarity, AIDA’s team from Mexico City: Astrid, Ava, Cecilia, Laura, Paulina, Rodrigo, and Victor.  

 

About the Author

AIDA Staff

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Founded in 1998, AIDA is a nonprofit environmental law organization that works across international borders to defend threatened ecosystems and the human communities that depend on them. 

Any opinions expressed in this blog are the authors’ own and may not be shared by the organization. AIDA includes them with full respect for the freedom of expression and plurality of our team of professionals.

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