Mexicans respond with faith and charity as hope fades for quake survivors
Tears flowed at Our Lady of Carmen and Saint Joseph Parrish on Thursday night as the families of two dead children killed when a powerful earthquake toppled their school a few blocks away interred their ashes.
The crushed victims, 7-year-old Eduardo Diaz and 8-year-old Francisco Quintero, were two of the 286 people reported killed by the quake, Mexico’s deadliest in 32 years.
All told, 17 of the dead came from the parish which worshipped at Our Lady of Carmen, a Roman Catholic church near the Enrique Rebsamen School.
Nineteen children and six adults died in the collapsed school, one of the earthquake’s most emblematic tragedies.
Family and friends leaned on each other during and after the Mass.
Outside, Mexicans by the thousands, if not millions, have found another way to combat the sadness, coming to the aid of total strangers by offering their time to earthquake recovery.
Volunteers have overwhelmed the more than 50 collapsed building sites in Mexico City, many bearing food and water, others offering a pair hands and a will to go to work.
The good deeds have helped lift the spirits of grieving families, said Father Genaro Chavez, the priest at Our Lady of Carmen.
“First with their faith. And secondly, through the tremendous solidarity that people are showing. All of Mexico is gathering here, focusing on this place right now,” Chavez said from the back steps of his church, which were filled with palates of bottled water and foodstuffs.
A few blocks away at the school, hundreds of rescuers labored against all odds to find survivors more than 48 hours after the quake.
Many were police and army personnel, but others were average citizens who showed up in hard hats. Human chains were taking rubble out of the disaster site. Teams of men were hauling heavy beams and laminates of steel in to prop up the weakened structure.
The volunteers included doctors and psychologists, trash-sweepers and sandwich-carriers. One man handed out chocolates to anyone in his path. All expressed a desire to help Mexico in its hour of need.
At a makeshift medical station on the grass median of a closed street, doctors and physical therapists tended to rescue workers who were injured on the job, patching them up and sending them back to work.
Physical therapist Jose Juan Galvan applied ultrasound treatment to the back of a doctor who was injured moving a patient the day before. Next to them a doctor in a white coat taped of the knee of man in a hard hat.
“We’re treating them to send them back into action,” Galvan said.
Psychologists Fabiola Jimenez and Paulina Bustos came to aid any parents, teachers or rescue workers dealing with emotional trauma. They counseled three fathers who showed up on Thursday, one whom lost a daughter and the other of whom had a son rescued.
Bustos said it was normal for parents to return to the scene, hoping to find any of their children’s belongings or recreate their final moments before tragedy.
“They’re confused, they’re in shock, they’re in mourning,” Bustos said. “It’s part of the process.”
Less lionized were the trash sweepers who also donated their time. A group of six sat on a curb eating sandwiches, taking a break after hauling away barrels of litter.
“There’s a lot of trash,” said Ana Ramirez, who said her group convinced her boss to allow the cleaning staff to report to the rescue site instead their regular job. “Mexico needs us here.”