When an Earthquake Strikes ...
Plain Truth Magazine
September 1985
Volume: Vol 50, No.7
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When an Earthquake Strikes ...
Mario Seiglie  

Santiago, Chile: FOR Rebeca Martmez, It was a moment she would never forget. The evening of March 3; 1985, she was bathing when the powerful earthquake struck.
   The walls, the roof and the floor began to shake violently. Instinctively, she dashed for the door. But the walls were pressing against the door frame and had jammed the door shut. With the sudden strength one is able to muster as life is threatened, she heaved and the door flung open.
   She leaped out and a second later the heavy roof and walls came crashing down. She watched horrified as much of the bathroom fell to the second floor below. She ran downstairs amid the sound of faIling plaster, bricks and wood. She made it out the front door as her husband covered her with a towel.
   Fortunately for this Santiago family, none were injured, but much of the house lay in ruins. The earthquake, which finally was estimated at 7.8 on the Richter scale, left a million people either homeless or with heavy damages to their houses. Close to 200 people died and thousands were injured in what authorities consider to be one of the most destructive earthquakes in the Western Hemisphere in this century. Over a thousand after shocks occurred in the first four weeks after the earthquake.
   What happens when an earth quake strikes? What goes through a person's mind? How is one's life affected?
   For Rebeca Martinez, the young housewife of the story, her thoughts were of escaping. In her desperation as she fought to open the door, she began to pray for help. Yet she had not attended any church for years. As a result of her close brush with death, she is searching for a greater and more secure Power in her life.
   "I felt so helpless and insignificant in the midst of all the crumbling walls. I thought for a moment the end of the world had come and I was not ready. I now want to draw closer to God and know why I am alive."
   Many of those seriously affected by the quake did think in those two destructive minutes that the end of the world had come. Soledad Cornejo, a university student, said, "We have been through two other terrible earthquakes. My mother saw in the earthquake of 1965 how the houses came down on the people. This one was so violent that I thought the earth would open and swallow all of us. There was no place to escape."
   For those who did not suffer damage, their attitude was markedly different. Edgar Baerwald, a businessman, was on the 10th floor of an apartment building at the time of the quake. "All I thought about was how terribly long it was and how to calm my aging mother. Now, I have a hard time going to sleep and am more nervous than normal."
   For the first week after the quake, most churches were filled with frightened people. But after things returned to a more normal pace, the attendance figures came back to the prequake average.
   Rebeca Martinez attended church once after her terrible ordeal in search for some answers to her existence. "I have seen a need to draw closer to God," she said, "but there are so many problems I need to deal with now. I have difficulties in my home and now I have to find a way to build the house again."
   Her initial search for the answers about life and the purpose of her existence will probably diminish as the pressing needs of the moment become her primary concern. Though she will never forget those horrible moments when her life was at stake, those moments of drawing closer to God will dim as life's daily problems again become the priority.

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Plain Truth MagazineSeptember 1985Vol 50, No.7