Damn 19… thrice damn

The September 19th 2022 began, as in the last 37 years, under a torrent of images that shook, made memory tremble. Photos and videos linked to the worst tragedy that Mexico City has experienced since the macabre flood of 1629 began to circulate very early on social networks: the 1985 earthquake.

The desolating images of that damned 19th, the “Black Thursday” earthquake that reduced the most beloved and most referential part of the city to ruins and rubble ran through the screens.

I found photos on Twitter of the Hotel Regis burning down, of the Juarez Avenue crumbling and steaming. From the Nuevo León building, in Tlatelolco; of the Televisa facilities on Avenida Chapultepec, where, among many others, Count Gustavo Armando Calderón lost his life, and of the building where the Superleche café was located, in Eje Central, which completely collapsed at 7:19 with all its customers inside and he was surrounded by screams, tears, dust.

37 years later, all the horror of those days turned into tweets: “There was a building on the same block as the Continental Hotel, it also fell down and I don’t know how many victims there were. There were at least two: an aunt and my mother. My cousin brother and I survived…”.

“It was horrible. Thousands of dead. The center of CDMX seemed like a bombardment”, commented some followers of the @Terremoto1985 account.

For those of us who saw and survived that, there is no way to forget the cemetery that Mexico was turned into. The smell of gas escaping from tanks in fallen buildings. the smell of death that filled the streets even weeks after the brutal blow of the earthquake. I think that, like us, the city was never the same.

Damn 19. Because it was on September 19 when another earthquake, just as brutal, stabbed the city in the back, when its unsuspecting inhabitants had just returned from participating in a mega-earthquake drill. In a sigh, the things that we never thought we would ever see again returned. Although the death toll was far from that of 1985 (when the authorities admitted 13,000), in September 2017 everything was filled again with fallen buildings, twisted rods, pieces of stone on the sidewalks, screams, cries, sirens, deaths , helicopters and pieces of glass shining on the asphalt.

I don’t know what the chances are that a telluric event of more than 7 intensity points will be repeated twice on the same date: September 19.

Worse yet: I don’t know how many chances there are of an earthquake of similar magnitude hitting the same city for the third time, precisely on September 19 (the doctor of Mathematical Sciences, Arturo Erdély, affirms that the probability is two in 100 million).

In any case, trembled for the third time on September 19, just when the relatives of the victims of the 2017 crash celebrate a ceremony at number 286 of Álvaro Obregón in honor of those who died there. And just when a mass was being celebrated outside the Rébsamen School in memory of 19 children and seven adults who lost their lives during the earthquake of 17, and whose relatives had to bear, in addition to the loss and pain in memory, the inclement shaking of the earth.

It began to shake in Mexico City for the third time on September 19 and the crying scenes returned, the crisis of panic, the shattering of glass, the swaying of buildings, the movement of poles, cables, traffic lights… The hive of videos on social networks where the overflow of emotions is recorded —in the Metro, in the offices, in the streets— among those who drag the incurable wound (1985, 2017) and among those who grew up knowing —Ricardo Becerra and Carlos Flores would say— that here it will tremble again!

Damn 19. At the same time, the videos of Michoacán came, where streets and houses shake and crack. At the same time came the video of the priest from Chavinda praying: “May God protect us, bless us”, while everyone around him flees, and at the same time came images of the collapses on the highways, of the falling of fences, of rising waters on the coasts. Of the damage in a huge group of states: the videos of the mystery and the curse: the videos of a September 19 nailed like a dagger in the tragic calendar of Mexico.

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