The Day the Earth Moved

ST Managua Earthquake DrillsApril 10th was just another day in Nicaragua, the heat was oppressive and everyone was anxious for “winter” (rainy season) to arrive and provide some relief from the heat and dry conditions. I had just returned from the school and was upstairs in my office checking and answering emails when suddenly our condominium began to violently shake, accompanied by a deep noise that was louder than thunder. Pictures fell from the walls, books were falling from the bookcase to the floor, and it felt like the condominium was swaying back and forth. I immediately stood in the doorframe and prayed, that’s all I knew to do. The earthquake lasted ~15 seconds but it seemed like an eternity but as soon as the worst seemed to be over, I raced downstairs and into the street along with everyone else in our complex. We’ve always experienced “temblors” that are very short and subtle, most times they have stopped by the time you realize what they were, but this one was unmistakable and frightening. The emergency operations people later said there were 300+ aftershocks from the event. I checked with the school and everyone was ok, just unnerved (as was I), but the earthquake occurred just as school was letting out for the day. The government immediately cancelled school the following day. We drove to the school the following morning but didn’t notice any significant damage, PTL. That afternoon another and stronger earthquake struck the city. They were the strongest to strike the Managua area in years.

The following week was “Semana Santa” or Holy Week, the week before Easter, a national holiday so schools throughout the country were on scheduled vacation. Aftershocks and smaller earthquakes continued and the¬†government cancelled classes in Managua and Leon for three consecutive weeks following Easter. In the neighborhood surrounding the school, the government evacuated and relocated families for fear of more earthquakes. Including Holy Week schools in those two cities were cancelled for four weeks. It was a very unsettling and anxious time for everyone; people were sleeping outside their homes and sleeping with one eye open. Everyone was waiting on the “big one” that the experts were predicting.

Praise God the “big one” did not/has not arrived and we are praying that it won’t. Of course, we were concerned for not only the children and their families’ safety but also that many of our students were unable to have a good meal for four weeks. Many of our children would rarely have a daily meal if not for what they receive at the school.

Once school resumed the first order of business at the schools were “earthquake drills”, similar to the “tornado drills” we practiced when I was in school. This became a daily exercise for the first week after school resumed. The students immediately get under their desks and when directed by their teachers, cover their heads and proceed outside to the staging areas to assemble and count heads. The students practiced and practiced until they were able to respond and evacuate quickly and efficiently.

So far the damage to the school has not been significant, thank God. There are superficial/cosmetic cracks in some of the walls and it seems the kitchen area received the most damage. Fortunately most of the damage can be patched and it appears God spared us any structural damage. It was a sobering reminder that nothing in our lives is assured and we are totally dependent on God for even our very next breath. Suffice it to say our kids were happy to be back in school, it’s a safe place for them. They were also obviously happy to get back to the routine of milk and meals every day.

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