Saturday, August 25, 2007

More from Jacci

Dear Family and Friends,

I have been wanting to get this off to you before now but it has been a busy week. I actually did try to compose something one evening but it was just too difficult. How does one express the experience of the country that is so painful and so long drawn out?!

I am not going to try to put these thoughts in any special order. They will be written as they come to mind.

This past week the question that one was greeted with was, "Where were you?" One did not have to ask "Where was I when what happened?" Everyone new what the other was asking. Those who were in buses were the lucky ones. The earth's movement is not felt if one is in a moving vehicle.

The schools were closed for several days and some are still closed because of structural damage even here in the Lima area. Of course in the area of the center, it will be a long time before schools are able to begin again.

The flags are at half mast and many events have been cancelled. Los Martincitos was going to have a "fun day" of games, dances, prizes, food, etc this Sunday but it was cancelled because we said that we could not celebrate when the country is in mourning.

People slept in the streets for many days out of fear. The many after shocks did not help the situation. Many are sleeping in tents in the streets now because their houses no longer exist. Some figures: the official count of the dead is 513, injured 1042, (over 700 of whom have been airlifted to Lima hospitals),4 out of 5 hospitals in Pisco were destroyed, in the center of Pisco (a city) not one building was left standing, not one church in the city was left standing. two Daughters of Charity died in the collapse of one of the churches.16,670 buildings were completely collapsed and 80 to 90,000 partially destroyed.

Some bright notes: two babies were born in the middle of the tragedy and their cries brought hope to the people. The tsunami that was threatened did not occur. The response of the international community has been overwhelming. We - the SSNDs have received donations and letters of support and encouragement from so many, many persons. A baby was saved by his Father protecting him with his own body (The baby was rescued from under the dead body of his father.). One of our parishioners lost two of her relatives but their 5 year old grandson who was in church with them obeyed their command to run quickly and so was saved.

In the days after the earthquake, we began to hear sad stories as the news filtered through. Not just one of our Martincitos lost their hoome (or part of it) but three did . Next week there will be a new group of volunteers coming and since there are several young people in the group they will be rebuilding these homes.

Some of you know Meche who worked for many years with our Sisters in Comas. She came last Sunday to tell me that her Father was in an area where no help had arrived - meaning the area was without water, blankets, food, tents, etc. This was four days after the earthquake. I have heard other similar stories.

Some of you know Irene Pullido (one of the Martincitos). She came in Monday telling a similar story rega rding her son and his family.

Today one of our Martincitos, Celinda, said that she has not heard yet from her sister and brother nor her daughter and her family. I doubt that she will hear if she has not heard yet. (The telephone company put free phone service in many of the areas within two days of the quake.)

The cities have already begun to rebuild. This past week a group of 1000 men and women dressed in red hard hats moved into many areas to begin the clean up. These men and women were some of the survivors themselves willing to rebuild their cities again.

I have been waiting to see how I can personally get involved and I received the answer today.

This morning we received a letter from Confer (The Conference of Relilgious) asking us to consider visiting the over 700 victims and their families who are presently in hospitals in the Lima area. I spoke with the chaplain of a big hospital in Lima today so tomorrow at 9am I will begin my visits. Please pray for me that I can bring some peace and hope to these suffering people.

I also heard this morning that I will be able to go with a group into the devastated area from Wednesday to Saturday of this coming week. The group is composed of representatives from Los Martincitos, Solydes (a NGO in the area) and CIFO (a school in a rich area of Lima). Their plan is to go to a small town in the outlying area (which has not received much aid yet) and begin to help there. Groups will be sent each week for as long as we can. One of the first jobs will be organizing the comedores there (common kitchens) and then working on a house for each family. These modulos will cost $800 each. Since we will be bringing food into the area each week, this will be another big expense.

Hopefully I will be able to share this experience with you all next week.

In the meantime, please pray for all the people who are reaching out in so many w ays.

The night of the earthquake, I said to all the people I met, "We are alive! Thank God!" NOw may we continue to bring this message to those who might not be certain that it is a blessing to be alive at this moment because of the suffering they are still undergoing.



Thursday, August 23, 2007

Another View of the Earthquake

Thought you wou ld be interestesd in hearing what Marcella has to say. Marcella is a Canadian SSND living in Canto but has been in Peru and Bolivia for many, many years.

The following letter is from Sister Marcella Reitzel in Peru to one of our sisters here in Canada:

I want to tell you about the earthquake - mostly simple facts since there is so, so much that could be told. Feast of the Assumption - 6:40 p.m. - August 15th; - worst in about 40 years, not in number of deaths, but in intensity; 7.9 (in Lima area 7.5); and in length, 2 minutes and a few seconds. Epicenter -almost 5 hours from Lima in bus; there also have been about 400 aftermaths, tremors and quakes. Numbers change every day but reports are around.

510 deaths and still digging out the buried -(at least 1 death in Villa el Salvador from fallen wall, and 28 in Callao, our sea-port just an hour from us); about 1000 wounded and receiving free medical help; about 16,670 buildings entirely collapsed and 80 to 90 thousand not safe anymore. Some of these are in our areas too, and many schools are closed because of danger; our library will definitely need the new roof now. We have been wanting to put a new one on ever since those 2 children fell through and one died; but because of the expense we just never were able to do it Now with continuing tremors, all are afraid to be there. Some churches and hospitals collapsed burying many and other such structures can no longer be used. Help is being sent from all countries but is difficult to organize and control. There is so much looting of the trucks; and, in the disaster area; when the trucks arrive, the people fight over the things - they are so very desperate for water, food, warm clothing (it's winter here) and just about everything. They have the armed forces helping now. Our seaport , Callao was hit with a gigantic wave that flooded much of the city and caused so much destruction and debris. They were warned that a Tsunami could be on the way and many evacuated their homes. In the epicenter, the fishing boats were washed up onto the streets. Thank God the Tsunami never arrived !!

Our experience in our people's chapel: we had, attached to a 3 meter high heavy wooden cross, another wooden cross over a meter in length with a plaster-cast image of Jesus. This fell to the terrazzo floor during the quake. The 2 crosses broke into a dozen pieces and the plaster image of Jesus doesn't even have a chip!!!! It is so entirely incredible that we feel it is a miracle. Only a framed picture fell and broke in our house. When we ran out to the street, the asphalt road was heaving so much, in wave-like sensation, that we thought it was going to open up under us. No one ever had such a frightening experience. We are all very fine but sure were shaken up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jacci's Earthquake Experience

Dear Family and Friends,

I wrote a long letter last night and lost it. Hope I have better luck with this try.

Some of you have already received a short message from me - either directly or forwarded - saying that the SSNDs and all our houses are in good shape. I wrote that from an internet cafe in another area because we did not have electricity in our area for more than 28 hours.

Probably you have learned much through the news reports and some of this might be repeated but...

On Wednesday evening at 6:40 pm there was an earthquake of 8.0 on the Richter scale with its epicenter in Ica, a city about 125 miles south of Lima. Because of the strength of this movement there was terrible loss of life and property in Ica (at this point more than 500 dead and thousands injured). The shock was felt strongly in Lima and even as far away as hile (south) and Ecuador (north).

Hospitals, churches, schools, homes, roads were destroyed. The rescue effort is hampered by the fact that the Pan American highway, the main road into the city, is in shambles in many areas. Supplies are being sent in by air and the seriously injured are being flown to hospitals in Lima. (I had a personal experience of this when I went on Thursday to see one of our Senior citizens in a hospital in Lima . I could not get in because the hospital was overwhelmed with the victims that had been brought in from Ica.)

Perhaps my personal experience of the earthquake will be of interest to you.

On Wednesday I left our house en route to our church for evening Mass (We only have Mass on Wednesday evening.) I was just about a block or so from our house when the dogs began to howl (They sense it before we do) and the earth began to move. I have experienced many tremors since I have been here but none like this. It is a strange experience to see the ground moving beneath one´s feet.

There were several bursts of what looked like lightning . It was the explosion of the electric transformers. When the sky lit up, it had an eerie color because of all the dust (Remember our roads are not paved in many places.). I must admit that it did cross my mind that this might just be the "end time".

I had just began to greet Tony´s mother (Tony is the director of Los Martincitos´program) before the shake began. We were hugging each other when suddenly she screamed, "¡Los Niños!" (The children!). With that she began to run to her home with me in tow. I told her I could not run in the dark as quickly as she could but that did not matter to her. At one point, I was aware that we were under trees that were swaying back and forth. I was glad to be moving quickly at that point.

After we were reassured that her grandchildren were safe, I went back to our house because I had left two Canadian volunteers there. There were leaving for church after I so I expected to find them in the house. But they were not there. I decided to continue on again to the church.

By this time it was very dark and walking on unpaved streets is not easy. The walk to church usually takes less than five minutes. That night it was over a half hour before I arrived there. The reason was that there were so many people on the street, crying, talking, praying, looking for family members and since I am well known here,(Even in the dark the "gringa" stands out.) many stopped me to hug me, to ask if I were okay, to cry on my shoulder, etc.)

At one point, I found one of our rather feeble Senior citizens from Los Martincitos. I helped her find her home. She now refers to me as her Guardian Angel.

When I arrived at the chapel, I expected it to be full. But it was just the opposite. The priest who was still there said that the people who were there when the earthquake began all ran out to go to their homes to see if their families were safe.

I found my way home and the Canadians were still not th ere. So I went looking for them. I returned home worried since I had not found them only to discover that they were there safe and sound. They had used their heads when the earthquake began and went to an open area (It is loosely referred to as a park) in front of our house.

We spent the rest of the evening sitting in candlelight listening to reports on a portable radio. There was not that much information available at that point because all communication had been cut off with the area most affected.

Many of our neighbors spent the night sleeping in the streets for fear of another strong movement. Today, Saturday, we are still experiencing after shocks and so many people are still very upset and worried. Several of our "Martincitos" were still very nervous when they arrived at the program on Friday.

We slept in our beds that night but I did sleep in my clothes for fear that we would have to go running.

The next day, I spent most of the day visiting the homes of our "Martincitos" to see how they fared and in what condition their homes were. One of the homes - that of Nicolas and Angélica - suffered much damage. Angélica´s bedroom had completely collapsed. Luckily she was in the next room when it happened. Also another wall had fallen. Several of us spent Friday afternoon cleaning out the area and then today, Saturday, several were going to rebuild the room.

If I can (I am not expert in the matter), I will send some pictures of their home to you.

There was a beautiful but sad picture on the front page of our newspaper yesterday. It was that of a young boy holding his mother in his lap. She was severely injured. It made one think of the Pieta because of the way the figures were presented.

There have been many touching,painful stories: that of the 200 people buried in a church where they were attending the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption. It was in this same church where everything fell except for the image of the Crucified Lord over the main altar. It reminded us of the Señor de Los Milagros image.

In another church, the people were not harmed because they were outside the church in the middle of a procession in homor of Mary.

The picture of bodies laid out in the main plaza of Ica was the most difficult for me. I could not imagine what it would be like to walk through that plaza looking for your loved ones among the bodies.

The uncle of one of our neighbors was one of the victims. The family could not go to the funeral because the roads are so blocked.

There are so many other stories....

The suffering of the people will continue for many more weeks and months as more bodies are found amid the wreckage, as people try to rebuild their lives and their homes. Please co ntinue to remember them in prayer.

Some of you have asked how to send money. I do not know how to do it, and do not know if you can do it from your area but the information in the paper was to send donations (in US dollars) to the following banks:
Scotiabank Account number 3022500
Interbank " 2000000001118
Banco de Crédito " 1931586951116

I thank you all who have written, tried to call and could not get through (the lines are okay now), prayed for , worried about us, etc. Your support and concern are a blessing!