Tuesday January 13th, 2009
Terremoto en Costa Rica
There was a major earthquake that struck the Central Valley in Costa Rica five days ago. A lot of the places and people that I have become familiar with during my months in Costa Rica were significantly affected. Sharon, whom I stayed with for a couple of weeks, wrote a great description of the earthquake and how it affected her, her family, and others in the area. I wanted to share her description with everyone.

Perspective from a South Louisiana gal on a 6.2 earthquake......

I am rethinking this sentimental idea of reconstructing a bit of my home state of Louisiana here in Costa Rica. About 8 years ago we built an authentic Louisiana Acadian Style House up high off the ground, complete with a high pitched roof which gave us our highest point on the house 30+ feet above the ground. And this allowed us to have an attic which we turned into a third floor kid's playroom. Now I am thinking, there is a reason why I have never seen another house like ours here in this Central American, earthquake prone country.

It has been five days…… and I still hear and see the helicopters passing over my house every 20 minutes. And I feel the aftershocks of the earthquake which has caused - what is being called the largest disaster to ever hit Costa Rica. My 2 youngest sons still will not sleep alone at night, nor go upstairs without being accompanied by their daddy or me.

Thursday, 1:22pm January 08,2009 is a day that neither my kids nor me will ever forget. Manuel was at work and we were enjoying our vacation from school. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon with spring-like weather typical to this time of the year. And I had just put 2 month old Sabrina down for a nap on the living room sofa. I grabbed my Bible and went out in the back yard to enjoy a few minutes of quiet time on my hammock. Haley and Ben were on the third floor with their violin teacher and Nicholas was in the school room on the phone. Brennan and Kaelan(my 3 year old grandson), were on the front porch, while 6 year old Simon was out on the trampoline. Ahhh…..all was bliss as I sat in the hammock and was enjoying the fact that I finally had a housekeeper again, as I heard her vacuuming downstairs.

As I was gazing at Volcan Barva and enjoying the beauty of that mountain top, from my peripheral vision I saw our little black dog jump up and run with her tail tucked between her legs. And before I even had time to think "why is she running away like that?"………….I felt something……. and at the same time heard what could only be compared to what it might be like to hear a train rumble through your backyard. In a split second, I turned to see our 3 story Louisiana Style house looming above me and swaying like a tree in a strong wind! It is kind of interesting the things that go through your mind in moments like these. Immediately, my very first thought ( though I am not proud of it) was "good thing, I'm outside"………only to be replaced immediately with………"oh no, Sabrina is inside…. and where are all the other kids?!"

As fast as I could get myself out of that hammock, I took the back porch steps three at a time only to be met by my new Nicaraguan housekeeper flying out the back door leaving the vacuum cleaner running dropped to the floor (and mind you, not even carrying one of the seven kids out with her). I entered the kitchen and could barely walk for the vertical shaking and sideways swaying of the house. And I heard, before I even saw - glass and objects crashing and shattering to the floor. I grabbed Sabrina off the sofa, thinking…….."ok Simon is outside on the trampoline and Brennan and Kaelan are on the front porch. Those are three kids that I don't have to worry about getting out of this house before it crashes to the ground." And in that second, all three kids came running INTO the house as I was screaming at them above their cries and the deafening squeaks of boards rubbing against each other and windows rattling ,to get OUT of the house. Meanwhile, I just remembered that Haley, Ben, and Giselle (the violin teacher) were on the third floor. I thought at that moment, "why have they not come down by now? And will the earth stop moving first or will this house just crash to the ground?"

Meanwhile, Nicholas finally arrived on the scene with a telephone in his hand talking to his friend who was also experiencing this earthquake. At that moment the line cut off and he had a look on his face that said….Whoa! This is awesome! (he is the thrill seeker of the family). I was trying to free myself of Simon's arms that were wrapped so tightly around my waist so I could get up the third floor to see why Haley and Ben were not coming down. I finally managed to free myself of Simon and convince him to go outside with Brennan and Kaelan. And with Sabrina still in my arms I made the three flights of stairs in record time. I arrived to the third floor and found all three huddled together with tears in their eyes. Giselle would not let them go downstairs. She had wrapped her arms around Haley and Ben and was attempting to comfort them. I later learned that they literally could not even stand up due to the rocking of the house which is substantially more evident on the third floor. They had to crawl over to their teacher from where they were seated, which turned out to be the best move for Ben, because where he was sitting a 70+ pound television set had fallen to the floor crashing down on his violin breaking it into 3 pieces.

We were able to walk down the stairs, as by this time, the quake was over with only a few tremors continuing to shake us up. We all went outside in the backyard to recuperate and to stop our own shaking, while we continued to feel the aftershocks. And then I looked up to the back porch and saw my housekeeper back in the house vacuuming the floor! All I could think was "WHAT!?" " She was out of that house in a micro-second and had no intention of saving any of my kids with her………but she is back in there cleaning the floor with this shaking still going on?!" I guess she was thinking………"well if this house goes down, it is going down a clean house!"

I think they said that the entire earthquake lasted on 20 or 30 seconds, yet the aftershocks have continued on even to this day, with last night being especially active with tremors. We had four in under an hour. We had no idea until the day after the earthquake the devastation that was caused by this 6.2 earthquake, with the epicenter only a few miles from our house. We later learned that of last count there are 30 dead and still about another 80 missing. However the numbers continue to be conflicting. Roads and houses have ceased to exist. People who were having lunch in restaurants have been buried under dirt and debris. Families who were in their homes have slid down the mountainside in piles of mud, cement block and what used to be furniture. Others are cut off from water and supplies. And many have been rescued by using Costa Rican helicopters and four other copters that came from the US Office of Homeland Security in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to help with rescue and disaster relief.

It is only now that we are getting many of the stories from the survivors……….a woman who lost her husband and 3 children, because she was visiting a neighbor and her family stayed home. There are parents who lost their 2 young daughters, because they were out selling candy on a road that became a landslide and they were buried alive. Another man who was driving along the road, had a whole line of cars behind him that just disappeared as the road crumbled away behind him.

There are yet many other stories like these from the survivors who have been set up in a green pristine pasture near Volcan Poas about where the epicenter occurred. They are living in tents because there are not enough shelters to hold all the people who are without homes.

This is a beautiful area where there are several farms and folks are not able to leave their animals behind and they are cut off from supplies and have no water, electricity or, communication. Dairy farms are having to milk their cows by hand and dump the milk out, because there are no roads to get in, in order to pick up the milk. Others lost their animals in the quake when they too slid down the mountain and were buried. And still others have left their pets behind as they have been rescued or have walked out of the mountain to where they can have help. As it often is when a natural disaster occurs….it seems to affect the people who were poor to begin with, the most.

This morning Manuel and Nicholas drove out to try and get around to a pueblo called La Colognia in order to bring food, gas, clothes, and diapers to some of the residents who live in this area. We personally know one of the families in this place. They are not sure if they will be able to get in without a bit of a hike. But they drove the long way around due to the fact that sections of roads have literally ceased to exist. We have other friends who have collected and brought supplies in to another area that was very hard hit called Cinchona and Vara Blanca. There are just so many houses gone forever and actually land gone as well. The survivors have no property left to rebuild on. Our home is fine, with just a few cracks in the walls and some stuff broken………..yet just a short way up the mountain, others have lost family, houses, and land.

Our family was debating the other night about which is worse - to be in a Louisiana hurricane or an earthquake in Central America, as they both can be very devastating….. and now after experiencing both………I have to say I believe I would choose the hurricane over an earthquake………first and foremost, because an earthquake cannot be predicted and can just occur anytime. You can be cooking lunch in your kitchen or sound asleep in your bed. At least with a hurricane, you know it is coming and can get your family to a safe place. For me that was my biggest fear, the house coming down on top of my kids. And with an earthquake - land that use to be there with a house and yard, are no longer there anymore. It is literally gone, the entire property, not just the house…… down the mountain to the bottom of a ravine, sometimes more than a 100 meters down the mountainside. At least with a hurricane, you do have your land left, even if your home is gone. Well… that is only my opinion and my perspective. I'm sure others probably feel differently.

The following is a link that someone placed on facebook to some pics of the earthquake and it's victims……..The pic of the pink house with the car sliding down below it, is actually not very far from our home and many of our friends live in this area called Cinco Esquinas. Earthquake Pics from Costa Rica

I saw nothing except a small 30 second blip on Fox News about the earthquake here in Costa Rica and when I talk to people in the states they have no idea of the devastation that happened here. So for that reason this is one of the reasons I am sending out this letter. And if you have it in your heart to help in some way let me know and I can tell you how to help.

There are houses to be built and food and clothing to be bought. If you would like to make a donation of some kind, Manuel and I can see that it gets to the right people who need it. I have an account there in Louisiana that you can send money to. However, if you need a receipt, I can give you the information of some missionary friends of mine who have an organization that they work with and you can donate there and receive a receipt for your donation.
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