Watching A Disaster From Afar

Produced by HuffPost's Eyes & Ears Citizen Journalism Unit

I woke up at around 6:00am this morning. When I checked the news on my phone, the first thing I saw was the news about the earthquake in Chile, my Chile.

You see, when you grow up in Chile, earthquakes are the stuff of legend. When you are a child, you have earthquake drills in school. You hear the story of how your great-grandmother died in the earthquake of 1939 when a post fell on her while she was sheltering her young baby. You grow up hearing about the great earthquake of 1960 and how your grandfather, who was travelling at the time, didn't show up until a week later. Your dad shows you the scar on his face from the time he fell on some barbed wire on Sunday May 22nd 1960, when the great earthquake of 1960 hit. He was 8 years-old, and his brothers and mother were walking back from church. That was the day when land was covered with water, and the earth moved up and down and sideways at the same time.

I will never forget the trips we took to the area, almost like a pilgrimage, where my dad would point out lakes and say, "You know, that used to be solid land." We took the river tour in Valdivia, where you can see the only house that survived the great earthquake, and you can see the upper floors of the houses that didn't make it sticking out of the water, as a grim reminder of what happened. I remember the earthquake of 1985. I lived in Temuco, in southern Chile, and as a 7-year-old, I was actually disappointed that it was not stronger in my area. I could not wait to go to Santiago to visit my grandparents, because their house had a crack in the living room. I wanted one too. I wanted to have my own earthquake story.

I moved to the United States for college, and never moved back home. I was 17, and though I love my life in the United States, sometimes it is daunting to realize that I am stuck with the decision of a teenager who wanted to live anywhere but home. On days like today, though, this distance hurts. I have spent the day waiting by the phone, hoping. It took several hours before I heard that my grandmother was not affected. Sure, some of the china broke, but the house is standing and she is healthy.

Soon after I got a Facebook message from a cousin telling me his family was doing well, but that the aftershocks had them scared. I have been talking with Chilean friends around the world via Facebook and Skype. None of us has any information, but it is good to feel that others are as distraught as you are. As I wait to hear from friends in Concepción, Valdivia, Temuco, and Santiago, I realize there is nothing I can do. I let out a sigh of relieve every time I see a Facebook or Twitter update from Chile.

I rest assured that my people are resilient, inventive, resourceful, and generous. I also realize that I need to visit more often, because things can change in an instant. My thoughts are with my family and friends in Chile.