By Lisa Brownrigg | BridgeWay North American School
At 11 a.m. all schools had an earthquake drill in remembrance of the thousands who’d lost their lives in the earthquake in Mexico City on September 19, 1985.
At 11:30 David messaged me that all had gone well at the Mexican Consulate.
At 1:15 my daughter Bridget and I were jolted out of our chairs at school and ran with the others to the park across the street. Under a clear, sunny, blue sky we waited out the massive quake watching the tall pines and palms sway to a wind we couldn’t feel. The weather was giving no warning to the disaster nature was exacting. But the ground was acting like the sea in the midst of a storm. We were on land not water but during an earthquake they feel the same.
We were at Bridget’s school, but I was responsible for BridgeWay and it was miles away. The Internet became spotty and contact with others became difficult. All I could find out was that everyone was safe and that the school was in good shape. Now a new terror began; that of finding our way home after the city was plunged into chaos. Our journey would take us three and one-half hours to complete.
After a harrowing taxi ride and picking our way among downed power lines, debris and dazed people we made it to BridgeWay. Our own apartment had been nearly destroyed so we expected to just stay at the school that night. By 5:30 we thought everyone would be gone but several were still there waiting on a parent who’d been stuck downtown. I was so relieved to see them. One of the teachers immediately offered us apples and water. I was so grateful for that.
Our sub-director, Gina, insisted with a desperate, crazed look in her eye that we stay with someone. “Favi lives right across the street from you!” she cried. “And her house is in good shape or Ana could take you. Becky could take you. She has room. You can’t go back to your apartment. You just can’t,” she went on.
I told her we would go home with someone. Ana found room for us at the ministry center so we went there. My terror was subsiding.
Ana, Annette and R.G., her children went with us to the center. They helped us haul our suitcases through town which was several miles away. So many others were doing the same thing. There was no public transit, only cars and hundreds and hundreds of people on foot with bags and suitcases looking for safety. On their faces I read fear, confusion, shock, and devastation which mirrored mine.
Just as darkness settled across the city, sirens began to blare and helicopters flew low in exponential numbers. I was so grateful to be off the streets when nighttime came. Behind gates and barbed wire, inside the ministry center, Bridget and I listened as the city came undone.
Sometime before dawn a silence befell the city. I’d never heard it that quiet. A few hours after that I could hear airplanes again and held out hope that David would be home soon. Surprisingly David’s flight was on time. He knew we’d had an earthquake, but had no idea how devastating it was until he saw the city from the air. It looked as if there were a thousand fires, he said. The smoke that shrouded the city, however, was not from fires but from plaster dust from hundreds of crumbled buildings.
The first thing we decided to do was go to the school to assess the damage. BridgeWay’s school building was in good condition but the eight-story apartment building next to it had a cracking façade that went from top to bottom. Opening school would be impossible until that façade was fixed. The problem was that for the owner of that building the façade was not an emergency. Though pieces of it littered our pre-school play area, it was not their problem.
By Monday, October 2, SEP began breathing down our necks to get school underway. We submitted that to prayer. We had no leverage to get the apartment building owner to begin work nor did we have the money to fix it for them. But God answered. Someone came up with an idea to build an awning that protected the students and staff. Not only that but after a few days the apartment building owner began work on the façade by scraping off the loose pieces. Thick netting was used to catch any wayward pieces of façade while the awning was being constructed. Though the work would take weeks to complete we opened school 15 days after the quake. We had God’s favor.
David worked seven days a week, 14- to 16-hour days for two weeks straight to get BridgeWay up and running again. It made apartment searching impossible. It was that and the shear dearth of apartments available. I put that situation on the altar too. That was something the Lord could figure out then tell us what the plan was.
As of November 4, David was no longer needed at BridgeWay on the weekends. The awning was done and all repainting was finished.
Weeks have passed and life is blessedly predictable again. We are settled in our new apartment which was a miraculous answer to prayer and we’ve adjusted to our new normal. Though good has come from it, it was mostly a painful experience. I think the fear is still there that came upon me right after the earthquake. But even so, I am looking forward to the future that God has already given.