Sunday, Apr 17, 2016

We had a big aftershock at 2:15 am. We all were sleeping as best we could on the front porch of the farm, just lying with a blanket underneath us on top of the planked wood floor. We have a bamboo and thatched roof over the porch that protects us from the rain that’s falling.

At 2:15 am we felt the first aftershock. It was 6.8 magnitude. As we sat up with the shaking we watched the bamboo roof shake above us and felt the floor sway under us. It lasted for just under 10 seconds. We were fine. We are safe. I wondered what effect it had on the buildings in Bahia, and more importantly how our friends who are staying the night in Bahia are doing right now? I can hear Diego’s baby crying from Don and Donna’s truck parked a few feet from the porch.

Just as we relaxed and tried to fall back to sleep, about 20 minutes from the first aftershock, another aftershock hit, not quite as hard as the first one, but long enough and strong enough to make us sit up. It passed. The car alarm from Norbert’s car was going off. I am so tired I just want to sleep.

At 4:00 am we were awakened by another after shock. It was a smooth roll with a mild shake that passed beneath us like the gentle ease of a massage chair….except no one felt relaxed. We all just remained still, no one even said a word as this one passed; each one trying to comprehend what we have been through, and wondering what was yet to come.

We were up with first light. Tired and sore we circled on the porch and began to put a plan together. We needed to get back into town and check on our friends who were still there, see if we can help in anyway, and grab whatever supplies we had in our condos to help us here at the farm.

Sandra, the wife of Walter, served us fresh boiled eggs. I don’t think a hard boiled egg ever tasted so good. Before we left Bahia last night we had heard that a home collapsed that Pascal and Jennifer, and their two children lived in. Norbert and Glenys are very good friends with them and were extremely anxious to get into town and check on them.

We had met Pascal, Jennifer, their son Arthur, and daughter Laurie-Ann a few days before at H Bar. We already knew their daughter Laurie-Ann from the monthly market in the park where she sold cookies to raise money to help feed and provide vet services for the stray dogs in Bahia.  The whole family was very outgoing and filled with smiles the day we kissed each other’s cheeks and shook each other’s hands.

As we entered Bahia we could immediately see the destruction of hotels, businesses, and homes. Pascal and Jennifer’s home could be seen right behind the Museum when first entering town. To everyone’s horror their home was a pile of rubble, completely collapsed. We drove as close to their house as we could, got out of our vehicles, and walked to the pancaked slabs of concrete.

I walked over to the heavy pile of concrete rubble and didn’t know what was happening. Were the Laflamme’s buried in this pile? Who was looking for them? Where are they? I picked up a softball piece of concrete and feeling the weight of that one small piece, the enormity of what happened here struck me. How could anyone survive this?

I walked over to Norbert who was talking to a local man standing in front of what was this two story, newly constructed, modern house. Norbert told me that Pascal and Laurie-Ann had been pulled from the rubble during the night. He said that Jennifer and Arthur died in the collapse. I looked over at Glenys who was sitting on a bench crying, shaking, and in shock.

This news was confusing. How can this be? It was tragic. The effects of the devastation from this earthquake were hitting close to home. Norbert and Glenys immediately left for the hospital to find and check on Pascal and Laurie-Ann. The rest of us continued on through Bahia. So many places destroyed. People sitting, sleeping, making camp on the streets. Buildings damaged, rubble, glass, electrical poles and wire everywhere.

We passed Linsley’s place. It was still standing. We hadn’t seen her since she left the condo right after the quake. She was ok. She had spent the night in her home but had moved her mattress right next to the front door so she could get out quickly if needed. She, like the rest of us, was trying to take in what had happened the night before. What it meant for her ability to stay in Bahia. What it meant for her life moving forward. These were my questions, and I know I am projecting them onto her, but I believe these were the questions in the minds of everyone in Bahia that morning.

We hadn’t heard from Janet and Paul. I was afraid for them because their two story home was all concrete. We walked over to their place and it was still standing. When we got there, no one was home and all the furniture was gone. Paul and Janet were planning on moving to Cuenca on Monday, maybe they already left? Where are they?

We made our way to our building. It was still standing. The condo on the lower floor had a chunk of wall missing and the entire closet with clothes still hanging on the rack were there for all to see.

Heidi, Easton, and I made are way through the rubble leading to the stairwell and stepped over chunks of concrete laying on the steps themselves. After the 3rd floor the stairwell was clear. We entered our condo and grabbed all our food…dry goods, staples, condiments, freezer items, dog food for Keeper, any food we would could use in the days ahead as we figured out what to do; what we can do.

We grabbed some clothes…a change of underwear, a fresh t shirt, a closed toed pair of heavy sandals. Every second we were in our condo felt like a gamble. Would we be in here when the next aftershock hit? Would the building stand? Is it weakened? Who knew?

No power or water. Cell service isn’t working. It is so hard to communicate with each other. Whatsapp seemed to work. It requires data. Not only are we running out of data (in Ecuador it’s pay as you go unless you have a cellphone plan, which you can’t get until you have a bank account, which you can’t get until being here five months), but our phones are almost dead. No where in town has power.

There was nothing for us to do in town at this point. Everything was still unstable. Clean up crews were pulling down buildings that were about to fall. Anyone trapped had been rescued during the night. People are stunned, trying to make order order out of the rubble around them. We made our way back to the farm.

At the farm we put a plan together of how we would manage.