Peru – This is why we are here!!!

October 31, 2007

Steve Henrichon

We watched a video last night. Since we were not here to experience the earthquake for ourselves, we will never know exactly what the people have been through. We can see the aftermath and listen to their stories but we will never know what it was like to stagger out of your house and trip over dead bodies in the street. ..or to lose a loved one and have to identify them out of a row of corpses in the town center… or to realize that you baby daughter is nowhere to be found and chances are that her body is underneath the mountain of concrete rubble from atop which you are frantically screaming her name.

The video we watched was taken while the earthquake was still happening. Glass shattering everywhere…screams… camera violently shaking. It is nighttime and the cameraman runs outside. His video camera is equipped with a light so it serves an invaluable purpose other than capturing the moment. Dust is everywhere and for a while, the camera light only illuminates a cloud of dust. You can only hear the horrific sounds all around. Massive pandemonium ensues as every other building in the city has collapsed. People running and screaming in every direction. Car alarms sounding all around. The cameraman stumbles upon a face in the rubble. People are buried under there. As the cameraman frantically rips concrete away with his free hand, he sees that somehow one person is moving their head. The other bodies lying amongst the rubble are certainly dead. He starts digging rubble…and digging…and eventually the injured person starts moaning “ayudame…ayudame…” It is night and unknowing people are mistakenly stepping on top of the buried person. It is difficult for the passerbyers to walk over the rubble without stepping on bodies. Another scene of the home video takes us to the church. The church was full of people that evening and a small few of them were lucky enough to escape before the entire church came crumbling down. Now, hopeful family members scampered over the heap of rubble praying for any signs of life. Names being called out. A distraught mother simply wailing “Hijo!!! Hijo!!! Hijo!!! Donde estás!!!” Son!!! Son!!! Son!!! Where are you????? More footage from the following day zooms in on corpses wedged amongst the rubble of collapsed houses; a row of the first 20 corpses of the first 170 dragged from the fallen church; crying families recounting the growing list of family members who have died in the tragedy.

A simple video does not even begin to describe what these people have been through…but at least it helped to put everything in a little more perspective for us. This is why we are down here. Every person and child we have been working with… whether they are smiling or not… has surely seen more than their fair share of mutilated corpses. Children have experienced horrific trauma that will stay with them. Most families have lost loved ones. The people are resilient, however, and their lives are returning to normalcy. They are friendly and cheerful but I imagine it iseasier that way… and that they are not quick to recount, divulge, or dwell on the recent catastrophe. As we work in Pisco, it is essential for us to always remain cognoscente of every individual’s personal experience even if they keep that experience is buried within.

Related Files:

October 23rd & 31st Update PDF

Country Page: Peru Initiative Page: Policlínico Peruano Americano