Still living through S19th

Find the original version of this post in Spanish, here.

I haven’t felt the need to write about my experience about S19th (September 19th). To be honest, I feel that my story is not as important as other stories out there. In a way, I feel like an impostor because I am alive and things are not as bad as they could be. However, today I feel responsible to say something to help those who are in a similar situation to mine, because it is not fair that it is the beginning of November and we have a nonexistent government. In the end, I have to come to terms with the fact that something actually happened to me and that I am still living the consequences of the earthquake. So, this is the story of how we lost our home and how there is no one from the government helping (even though ads say the opposite.)

I am Sabrina, I was living together with my boyfriend Julio and our dogs Tomasa and Afgan, in an apartment at La Roma neighborhood. We had been living there for a little over a year. To be honest, we were LIVING THE LIFE. We both work long hours, I work from home (used to) and my boyfriend at an office in La Condesa neighborhood. Everyday we walked the dogs, we liked to go to the last show at the movie theater, we worked out, and enjoyed watering our plants.


First, we lived through the September 7th earthquake and up until that moment, I had never been so scared in my life, but phew! we survived one of the strongest earthquakes in years. We made it! (ha). The facade of our building got some damage, but  the structure was safe and sound. I guess we should’ve commissioned a check-up and should’ve paid for the services of a structural engineer then, but honestly we didn’t have time, we were waiting for the Government officials to show up when September 19th came.

I was at a ballet class and after a set of jumps I felt weirdly dizzy. I turned to see some decorations hanging in the ceiling and saw those moving. I was going to tell the instructor when the earthquake got stronger and threw us. We tried to go to another room, in front of ours (supposedly the safe area), but the door would not open. We came back to our room (not sure why, I guess we were just confused) and there some pipes fell on top of me. Confusion! Confusion! …Done! We are outside, we were the last ones. There, downstairs, I realized I was wearing ballet shoes, but at least I had my phone. My boyfriend called and I cried, even though at that point, I could not imagine what had happened in the city. I went upstairs to change my shoes, grabbed my bag thinking how scared should Tomasa and Afgan be, and felt guilty for not being there with them. I let my family know that I was ok, saw that everybody replied in our group chat and started walking. When I got to Reforma (Av) I started realizing the magnitude of what had happened. I saw people bleeding, some had fallen, others had been hit by pieces of facades, many crying utterly scared.

The first piece of news I had from my home came from my friend Yare. She told me she had seen a pictures of a building very similar to mine, with considerable damage and wanted to know how I was. At the same time, the neighbors started saying (on the chat) that the building looked bad. Damn.

I never thought that the metrobús wasn’t going to work. When I realized it, I called my mom. I didn’t know how to get home, I was lost. At that point, I panicked. I cried and scared my mom (sorry mom); but the call was helpful. I calmed myself down and told myself: I am ok. I am going to walk.

I noticed that despite the short distance, getting to my building was not going to be easy. I called my boyfriend and told him to go home, maybe he could get there quicker by car. I walked as fast as I could. The sun was, “de la chingada”, bothering me and even though I was applying sunscreen over and over, I didn’t feel better. I was dodging obstacles left and right: move over because that facade fell, run because there is a gas leak, jump the metrobús’ platform because cars are blocking the way and there is no sign of the drivers, pass the circle of people crying… I got to Chapultepec and Cuauhtemoc (Avs) and I saw a guy in a motorcycle. I yelled at him and asked him if he could take me home, I was close but was exhausted. A policeman said that would be dangerous, as the guys did not have an extra helmet and there were too many people in the streets. I obeyed and kept walking/jogging.

As I was arriving, I felt my heart drop. There was tape everywhere. I saw Israel, the guard outside and he told me Julio was inside. An officer arrived and told me not to go inside because the building was going to fall and I told him I would go in. He said: “It’s up to you, but if there is an aftershock, it will fall.” “Damn, we are going to die.” Israel walked with me to the first floor and I ran up the next 5 floors. I couldn’t breath, in panic. I felt myself shaking, but thought I had to get to the apartment to help the dogs out. When I got home, I hugged Julio, he had the dogs, the laptops and was grabbing our passports and visas. He asked me to grab the desk top computer. Let’s go! He thought about everything when I could not think about anything. After that rip, he came back to rescue the dog of one of the neighbors and I, sick to my stomach, asking him not to go in again. But he did. Once he was out, we set in the park. We were there for a long time, not knowing what to do. I am not sure what we were waiting for… For it to fall? For someone to tell us it was not going to fall? I do not know. We saw others bringing more and more of their stuff out. I thought that I had everything valuable with me. Whenever I got a text, I would get pissed off, I didn’t have enough battery and to be honest, I didn’t want to talk. People wearing vests got there and told us not to go in, that it would fall. Not being an expert in structures, I believed the people with vests and helmets.

After what felt like hours, we decided to go to my parents’ with the feeling that there was a big chance that our building would fall and we ended up with nothing. Yes, we were alive, but all of our work could disappear anytime.

The next day, a volunteer engineer went there to tell us that the building was not going to fall. We all cheered. He got there with workers and they placed aid on the weakest balconies. More and more volunteer engineers visited the building, they all said the same thing and urged to remove the walls that were about to fall. Many volunteers arrived and helped move debris, including my family and a couple of friends, all with buckets and shovels and cleaned what up, until a day before, had been our home. Another friend got there with clothes for me, because I hadn’t taken out anything else, while another friend helped me with my work assignments due that day. In that moment, I was filled with all the love I was getting and my great support network. ❤

That whole week we didn’t know what to do. We got many dicta saying the same thing: It will not fall. Ok, but now what? You can’t live there because it is dangerous. Ok, yes, but what do we do now?

They said we should wait for the county personnel to do who knows what. Ok, in the meantime we should get the aid check, 6 hours in a line and done. We need a DRO, we have to wait for the authorities to send one. Ok, no. If we wait for them to do so, who knows when it will get there. We have to get one ourselves and get an estimate for an evaluation of the structure. How much is it? At least $150,000MX ($7,500USD approx.) Are you kidding? One month went by. Fists up, 3 minutes of silence. My dad is stressed because his office suffered damages too. And the government? Not a word. Extra fee to pay for the evaluation of the structure. The lady from the 1st floor doesn’t want to pay because whatever. We need the blueprints of the building. No one has them. Let’s go to the county offices. It will take 3 weeks to get the blueprints. They are not ready yet and who knows when they will be… And that’s where we are.

Our lives are upside down, we had to leave many things behind and spend in so many others, we haven’t been able to take our belongings with us because we don’t have where to put them and because moving companies want to charge extra due to fear of the building conditions’. But we were lucky, we are alive and we are together. We are living in house in Azcapotzalco, that although rundown, it is a space we can use temporarily.

We are more or less 29 families from the building located in Morelia 107 in the Roma Norte neighborhood living in limbo, in complete uncertainty. We don’t know how much time it will be, we don’t know how much money it will be, and expenses keep adding up. And the government… Away. Some people say the evaluation of the structure had to be free, but in one month NO ONE has shown up. Some others say we will get loans with 9% interest… What? Shouldn’t there be a fund and donations?

I write this because I don’t want there to be any doubt: The government is not rebuilding this city. WE ARE, the people, the neighbors, with our money, our resources, our time. We only have us. Those in power are doing nothing. As in S19th, people, friends, neighbors, families are the ones doing something. NOT THE GOVERNMENT.