One year after the earthquake that hit Mexico on September 19, here are the testimonies of the people who helped during and after the event.
Honor to whom honor is due
“After being under the rubble, I can say that one of the positive things the earthquake brought was that as hundreds of strangers we started seeing each other as equals to help. We saw each other as human beings.”
Rodrigo Heredia Chía, an accountant who works in the Condesa neighborhood (one of the most damaged spots in Mexico City), is still working in the brigades supporting the victims of the earthquake that devastated states in the south and center of Mexico on September 19th, 2017.
Rod, next to a group of anonymous and professional brigade members, managed to rescue three people from the rubble. (Photo courtesy of Rod)
From strangers to brigade members
During the chaos, Heredia became known on social media as “Rod CH, the brigade member.” This was a nickname that went viral when he posted a set of videos where we see a group of citizens and professionals rescuing Paulina, Lucía, and Isaac, young people who were trapped in the collapsed building on 286 Álvaro Obregón Avenue.
“We were there since the 19th in the late afternoon till the night of the next day. During that time, we found people that had died, so we helped in the rescue of a couple of bodies. At the end of the day, I was working with professional people who had all the equipment. After long hours, we were able to rescue Pau, Lucía, and Isaac.”
Nowadays Rod is still working in an independent brigade group that takes food and supplies to the victims in both Mexico City and Oaxaca, one of the most affected states. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva News / Gustavo Pineda)
Oaxaca and Mexico City, places devastated by the earthquake
To Rod, the adrenaline rush that pushed him to help after the earthquake was more than instinctual. As he sees it, it was a result of his upbringing in his native Oaxaca and that he perfected while biking through the roads of the country.
“I’m president of a bikers club called ‘Sangre de Dragón’ (Dragon’s Blood), where I also do humanitarian work. We have several WhatsApp groups where we created a network to help out in any event or accident on the road. We alert others of accidents, crimes, among other things. In fact, it was through these groups that I realized the immensity of the earthquake.”
Rod is lifting his fist, the symbol of “silence,” to hear possible survivors under the rubble. (Photo of courtesy)
Last September 19th, at 1:14 pm, Rod was carrying out some tasks near his workplace, and it was then that the seismic alarm started ringing and he heard a huge roar from within the foundations of the building he was in.
The pick, the shovel, the blood and the number 19 are the symbols Rod has tattooed on his skin. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva News / Gustavo Pineda)
One bike and many miles ahead to help
His first reaction after the earthquake was to keep calm. However, he hadn’t realized the scope of the disaster.
“I was working, so I went to check some work stuff on the phone. I was on the first floor of the building, so I felt it a lot, but I didn’t really see how bad it had been. I went outside, and when I saw my phone, I started realizing this was a huge thing.”
Rod got a tattoo with the date of the earthquake to remember people's support and sacrifices during the crisis. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva News / Gustavo Pineda)
After receiving texts and messages, he first contacted all his friends and family in the City. Once he was sure everyone was ok, he reached his parents in Oaxaca to see what things were like over there, which had already been devastated by an earthquake just 12 days before).
“When I saw that my family was fine, I decided to start helping in the area since I knew it so well. I work there, and at some point, I lived in the neighborhood. My wish to help didn’t come after the earthquake of the 19th, I mean, I’ve been carrying out social work for many years.”
Rod works as an accountant in the Condesa neighborhood. However, he still collaborates in the different brigades and shelters. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva News / Gustavo Pineda)
One year working for the victims
One year after the earthquake, Rod keeps working and helping with some of his brigade partners.
“Personally, I keep helping. Actually, I’ve been taking some rescue courses and I’ve learned how to use some of the tools used by professional brigade members. This is part of a personal preparation, and all this year I’ve been part of an independent citizen collective where we travel often to Oaxaca to take supplies.”
Rod is still studying and preparing himself as a brigade member. Besides that, he keeps a close relationship with the people he worked with and helped save after the earthquake. (Photo: Cultura Colectiva News / Gustavo Pineda)
One year after the earthquake, Rod is sad to see that most people's desire to help has gone away.
“It's not enough to just want to help, it’s important to know how to help as well. This a moment to become revolutionary activists, and this is what I mean when I talk about those of us who can embrace a cause. It’s a matter of commitment and effort. Of course, we thank everybody who helped, but we also need commitment, not just social media posts.”
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Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards