In April of 2016, one year following the earthquake, I went back. I wasn’t sure what I would find. Of course, I hoped for improvement. I was shocked at what I saw.
“I recently went to Pedernales, it’s two hours up the coast,” said Petter Hermansson, a missionary with Covenant Church of Ecuador. “The people there, they still live in camps, they don’t have houses yet. So that was the feeling. They still don’t have a solution. And it’s been a year. it’s so sad. They don’t have a house they don’t have anything yet.”
The tragedy now, more than a year after the earthquake, is the condition in which the people remain.
“For an area or a people or a country with limited financial capability, the recovery process is much longer,” said Georgianna Armstrong, Emergency Services Manager, County of Kern.
Ecuador was in a severe economic crisis when the earthquake struck, making rebuilding even more difficult, and far more slow.
“You’re talking about removal of debris. You’re talking about hazardous materials. You’re talking about homes being destroyed,” said Armstrong. “You’re talking about businesses being shut down, possibly going out of business. People losing their jobs, people moving away. Tax base shrinking. It’s a very complicated, interrelated process and there’s no quick and easy answer.”
Despite the immense devastation, the destruction left in the wake of Ecuador’s earthquake is not widely known.
“We had attention for some weeks. I had the newspaper from Sweden calling me for one week, maybe two weeks. And then it was like nothing,” said Hermansson.
The sheer inability for the country to immediately comprehend the extent of the damage lent to the lack of information to the international public.
“The first time I heard about it was when I was watching [KGET] and they were doing your promo about your upcoming story,” said Richard Hernandez of Bakersfield. “That’s the first time I even realized there had been an earthquake in Ecuador.”
Like many of this year’s natural disasters, it’s almost impossible to understand the weight of all that happened unless you’ve seen it.
For me this tragedy is heavy because I witnessed it when it happened.
And I saw it again after a year.
For me, their grief and their loss have been personal.
“I almost feel guilty. I get to go back to the states and leave them all here. That’s hard. *Crying* ” said Lizarraga in Ecuador.
“The fact is, they wake every day experiencing that new normal whether or not the rest of the world is paying attention,” said Armstrong.
And this new normal persists more than a year later.
“The people still need so much help,” said Marduri Molina of Tarqui, Ecuador.
The people feeling the pain of a recovery that, for some, has been agonizingly slow with no hope in sight.
“All we want is mortar so that we can build our houses,” said Silvia Ponce in Tarqui, Ecuador. “We are not asking for money. Just the mortar.”
“I would like to ask those from all around to help us,” said Carmen Narcissa of Tarqui, Ecuador.
“Collaborate with us because we have great needs here. We are hard-working people but, without our tools of the trade, we cannot work.”
“Believe me when I say, in the morning all we have is a small cup of coffee,” said Monica Bailón tearfully.
“We’re desperate down here. We’ve basically been forgotten,” said David Jacome Delgado of Tarqui, Ecuador.
“So sad. But, thank God and with help of our brothers and sisters, we are moving forward. Still, it seems that we are suffering more now than before,” said Mercedes Idero of Jaramisol, Ecuador.
“It’s not just me in this situation. I don’t ask for just me. I may have lost a house. But, there are many that have lost much more than a house. I may have lost material things but many others have lost loved ones,” said Silvia Ponce of Tarqui, Ecuador.
I believe that our community can do something to help.
We might be in different countries, but we have an opportunity to change people’s lives.
“How is it possible that I could stay with my arms crossed when there is so much need? So much pain? I couldn’t,” said Cecilia Briones of Jaramisol, Ecuador.