I never thought I would have to write something like this, and I hope you never have to either.
Imagine skyping your best friend across the world on a lazy Saturday evening. You haven’t seen them in a while and you miss them, so you’re talking about school and classes, memories and anecdotes. The sun is still out for you, it’s almost 5 p.m., but for them it’s dark. You don’t imagine at this point that your lives are about to change until you see them stand from their chair, raw fear in their eyes as the screen begins to tremble almost as much as their voice.
She told me, “The ground is shaking.” I told her to get out of the house.
My best friend came back almost 10 minutes later. She was in the capital of Ecuador, not very close to the epicenter. I could only imagine how strong it must have been for her to tell me a few hours later that if there was another one she would consider jumping out of the window, because she wasn’t that far from the ground and the structure of her house felt like a death trap.
On Saturday, April 16 a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador. It’s been one week and we have lost 656 people, over 16,000 wounded, and by the time you read this those numbers will have risen.
Being an international student, I’m used to feeling homesick once in awhile, but never have I wanted so badly to not be here. I felt powerless as the people in my country suffered and hopeless when people asked me how I was doing because they didn’t even know.
That’s one of the things that frustrated me and hurt the most; they didn’t even know.
After the earthquake, it took a while for the media to cover the damages, and when it first did, the focus was mostly on the bigger cities. Meanwhile humble coastal towns closer to the epicenter, like Pedernales and Canoa, were almost completely destroyed to a point where help couldn’t get there until the next day. Even now my country can’t mourn its dead because we are desperately trying to find survivors, rescuing people from under the rubble and trying to help and feed families who lost everything in the 45 seconds the earth shook.
That week we started receiving international support, mostly from other Latin American countries and the EU, but I am still shocked that so many people here don’t know. This week I’ve heard more about Coachella and Donald Trump saying 7-eleven instead of 9/11 than about the tragedy in my country—that completely baffles me. I’ve seen articles about it in American media, but I’ve seen and heard close to nothing on social media or classrooms. Why aren’t people talking about it? My friends back home are putting together donation boxes and meeting up to build coffins, while in my class people are talking about Kylie Jenner. Why does it feel like people are seeing but not listening?
She told me, “The ground is shaking,” and it still is.
In this relatively small university, I know the sense of community is very strong. And, in a Jesuit university, community service is encouraged. People should consider making donations through organizations such as UNICEF or care.org. And even if you can’t make a donation, the least our community can do is start talking about it. Raise awareness. Don’t turn a blind eye on such a tragedy—In this situation staying silent is the same as looking these people in the eyes and telling them you don’t care. We can’t bring back the people we have lost, but we can help the ones that are still here.
That same weekend, a 7.3 Earthquake occurred in Kumamoto, Japan. Japanese Student Association members, International Student Center members and I will be holding a fundraising event on Thursday, May 12 from 12-2 p.m. in the International Student Center lounge (PAVL 160). They will offer dishes from both countries. Seattle University should step up and help raise money for the victims of both earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan.
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