on february 4th, 1976 i was in a village on lake atitlan in guatamala. i was traveling with a friend, wandering through central america, lost in ways that only someone who doesn't have to worry about survival can be lost.
at 1:00 in the morning, a 7.5 earthquake hit.
most of the buildings in the village where we were staying were made of wood and survived in some shape or another, including our hotel. but voices yelling in the dark told us to get out and go either to the soccer field or the churchyard for the rest of the night--or so we assumed, as we ignorantly spoke virtually no spanish and certainly none of the mayan dialect.
as i lay on the ground on the soccer field in the starlight, i could hear and feel the aftershocks rumble from deep within the earth to the surface where we lay. each time i watched the remaining phone lines start to sway and then whip into a synchronized frenzy as the ground moved in waves. in the morning, we saw that the cliffs below which we had been swimming the day before had collapsed into the lake, and that a jagged piece of the soccer field, and the school bus sitting on it, had disappeared into the water, as well. the stone church had collapsed, and there were rumors that three people who had run in to pray had died. we had no idea yet that tens of thousands of people had died in guatamala city and in the stone and stucco villages hidden away in the hills.
we found our way to a clinic miles away and gave blood. having nothing else to offer, we tried to get out of the way, piling onto a bus snaking through mountain roads around landslides to el salvador, leaving the destruction to eventually find our ways home.
i was a privileged kid who led a charmed life. there was no reason for it. there still isn't. i am so sorry about haiti.