University of Portland grad in Mexico during earthquake: 'It's been traumatizing'

Courtesy Jacky Rodriguez

On Tuesday, September 20th, Mexico City nearly leveled.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake shook the city to pieces. A University of Portland graduate was caught in the middle of it while she was walking down the street. Jacky Rodriguez called the experience "traumatizing" and says she's "still in shock."

Rodriguez moved to Mexico City recently to pursue her passion for yoga. She was also considering teaching Spanish and volunteering, but Tuesday, her mission changed.

"This definitely wasn't the idea I had in mind for helping this city, but it's a challenge I am gladly willing to take on," Rodriguez said.

When the city nearly collapsed, so did the communication lines. It's nearly impossible to get a call or Facetime with people in Mexico City. Rodriguez also said the popular app for texting and calling while in a foreign country, WhatsApp, isn't working either.

The only way we were able to talk to Rodriguez was through text. So we asked her a few questions about what it's like living in the destruction. These are her answers:

1) Can you describe the moment it hit?

"The morning of, I heard sirens around 8 a.m. and my roommate told me those were just practice sirens they do every year on this date because the destruction the earthquake had done years ago. I was walking back from the grocery store in Roma Norte around 1 and heard the sirens again so I thought they must do them every couple of hours then people started running down buildings and men and women grabbed me as they saw I was alone and in shock as we started to sway and lose control. We ran towards an open area on the street, but saw a spiral parking lot collapse and people were stuck underneath the concrete structure so we ran to help and try to lift it together. A man had his head caught trying to get out, but he then stopped moving. A woman's torso was stuck as she was trying to get out so we counted "1,2,3" but was impossible to lift as she stopped moving as well. Then police evacuated us from the scene because they did not make it. I then made my way to the apartment I was staying at because I wasn't sure where my roommates would be and if they got their dog out. Luckily I was only a 5 minute walk away and she was outside on the street with her pup."

2) How long did it feel like it lasted?

"Felt like it lasted a minute. Way longer and worse than the other one a couple weeks ago."

3) As you were pulled to safety, what did you see?

"Just saw all the buildings swaying and some parts falling off. People in complete shock and everyone yelling, they need to get to their kids and family, but to be calm and remain together."

4) What did you do the minutes and hours after?

"We waited on a busy street where most people went to get away from the buildings. My roommate and I waited for her husband for an hour since he was in La Condesa and wasn't answering his phone. Then people started shouting and saying "gas leaks, clear the area" so we went to a public park and waited for a couple hours. Luckily, I just went to the grocery store so we had yummy snacks and water. Around 5:30 p.m. we went to check on the apartment where the walls were cracked and where there was some damaged. Grabbed out things and went to an area outside of the city."

5) What are you doing now to try and help?

"Now we are gathering food and helping out with clean up. Checking the news to see what is needed. Every area has different needs. So many people are helping now and some not knowing what to do so we will take it day by day as this will be a VERY long process."

6)What do you see the biggest need?

"Honestly, I think the biggest need is to make ourselves available. Put work aside for now and help with whatever is needed. Whether that's shelters, food, clean up, anything."

7) We are expecting a big earthquake to hit the Northwest, what's some advice you would give to people now that you've experienced two earthquakes in just one month? How can people prepare?

"Oh boy. I suggest making an earthquake kit, food, water, flashlights, car keys, Change of clothes, portable charger, money. Read about where you need to go and what you should do if it's in the morning, during the day, at night. Think about where you'll be; at work? Home? School? Etc and what your evacuation routes will look like."

8) What's next for you, for the community you recently immersed yourself in and for the country?

"Next is helping. My big thing for moving here was to teach yoga and HELP with whatever. Teaching English, volunteering, anything and this definitely wasn't the idea I had in mind for helping this city, but it's a challenge I am gladly willing to take on."

9) What part of the city were you in when it hit?

"I was in Roma Norte when it hit."

Rodriguez also set up a GoFundMe account to try and raise money to help the victims. She shares her story on the fundraising page. You can donate or read it, here.

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