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SiteLink Sales Executive Amird Caballero Witnesses Major Mexico City Earthquake

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edited September 2017 in Centro y Sudamérica
Ejecutivo de ventas en SiteLink Amird Caballero es testigo de gran terremoto en la Ciudad de Mexico

By @Amird_Caballero, Sales Executive, SiteLink Software  

Business trips are relatively new to me–this was my first solo trip since my promotion from customer support to sales executive. Going to Mexico City, for an Asociación Mexicana de Auto-Almacenaje, AC (AMDAAC) luncheon, was supposed to be a simple, quick in-and-out presentation and introduction to our clients in Mexico. At least, that’s all I was expecting to happen.

What I didn’t expect was for my straightforward, well-planned business trip to become a very different–and frightening–experience because of the powerful 7.1 earthquake that struck Mexico City on September 19, 2017.

Unbelievably, it was exactly 32 years to the day that a deadly 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook Mexico City in 1985. No one would have expected such an eerie re-occurrence. However, this turn of events, while unexpected, uncovered the astounding resourcefulness, care and fortitude of the people of Mexico as they dealt with–and continue to deal with–such a tragedy. I was truly impressed.

I landed in Mexico City in the afternoon of September 18th, and while walking towards the customs and immigration line I thought I was going to be waiting forever. In reality, it only took about 15 minutes or less! I was amazed to see how quickly and efficiently customs and immigration helped all the passengers before me.

During the cab ride to my hotel, I took in the panoramic views of the mountains and was awestruck at how beautiful and enormous Mexico City really was. My 12th floor hotel room provided an amazing view of the city with towering skyscrapers all around. I was left in awe at the magnitude and sheer volume of Mexico City. I was definitely taking in the city vibe.

Later that night, I was invited to dinner with one of our customers, Andres Bascunan, General Director of Multibodegas Self Storage. We went to a nice restaurant with a lively atmosphere–all around us people were dining, talking, and listening to a live band playing great music. I enjoyed sampling all kinds of appetizers, trying many different kinds of foods commonly eaten in Mexico.

After dinner, Andres graciously took me on a quick tour of the city. I was able to see the Ángel de la Independencia (Angel of Independence), a beautiful, towering statue located in the center of Mexico City. It was an amazing piece of art to see up close!

The next day while preparing my presentation at the AMDAAC luncheon I received a Skype message from Jenny Tardan, Director of AMDAAC, informing me of an earthquake drill that was scheduled for sometime between 8:00 am and 11:00 am and to not freak out when I heard the sirens blaring throughout the city.

It turns out that every year on September 19th, organizations and companies throughout Mexico City conduct an earthquake drill in memory of the enormous earthquake that caused so much devastation to Mexico back in 1985.

To be honest, the drill still caught me off guard. In the middle of my presentation, around 10:45 am, everyone at the AMDAAC, including myself, heard the sirens going off throughout the city. We were advised to remain calm because it was just a drill, but we needed to know the nearest exits and evacuation route if an earthquake were to occur. I learned that the process for evacuation is that everyone must exit the building in a fast and orderly fashion, taking the stairs out. After a short delay, I continued the presentation. Lunch finished at about 12:30 followed by a ride to the Multibodegas corporate office with Alejandro Cabrera Parkman, General Director of Multibodegas, to provide SiteLink training, walk thru their operation and an open Q&A with corporate team members.

We arrived at 1:00 pm and proceeded to the 3rd floor. I was left alone to set up my laptop and prepare for the training. Alejandro, Andres and the other team members had stepped out to get other equipment and beverages for our meeting.

All of a sudden I feel my chair starting to shake. I thought to myself, “Something must be wrong with this chair,” but as soon as I stood up I lost my balance. Behind me, I heard commotion in the lobby and saw people running and making their way anxiously out of the building. People were holding onto wall cabinets, tumbling onto the floor, and losing their balance everywhere. It was like something out of a movie!

Never having been in an earthquake before, all I could think of was what I learned at school: if you’re ever in an earthquake, stand right under a door frame. So that's exactly what I did. I stood there for a few seconds, and then one of the Multibodegas team members approached me and said in a shaky voice,

¡Esto es un terremoto! Tenemos que salir del edificio ahora mismo!” (“This is an earthquake! We have to get out of the building right now!”)
Now let me tell you, trying to exit the office and go down a flight of stairs during an earthquake was one of the most difficult tasks of my life. I tried to keep my balance as the floor shook uncontrollably beneath my feet. I kept looking up at the ceiling to make sure nothing was falling. It was definitely one of my most frightening experiences ever.

Outside the 14-floor building, the hundreds and hundreds of people that had evacuated all of the surrounding buildings were on the sidewalk and in the streets. Co-workers were hugging and consoling other co-workers, people that didn't know each other were now trusting one another. Everyone that made it outside was frantically calling family and loved ones to see if they were OK.

It is common for buildings and companies in Mexico City to designate earthquake volunteers to assist in case something like this happens. I was so relieved to see the brave men and women keeping the crowds calm and informed as to the circumstances within the building.

Our building completely lost power. Desperate for information about what was going on, we found a nearby restaurant that still had power and was fully functioning. We immediately turned on the news and discovered it was a devastating 7.1 earthquake with an epicenter about 100 miles from the city, near Puebla. In the news, they also mentioned Terminal 2 at Mexico City airport was inaccessible because of enormous cracks in the road from the quake. This was the terminal I needed to take for my 11:30 pm flight! I was very nervous that I wasn't going to be able to leave Mexico and get home to my family that I desperately wanted to see.

By about 4:00 pm, we were notified that all roads leading to the airport were again open for traffic. I decided to head to the airport early and requested an Uber driver. Once my Uber arrived, I asked the driver to be dropped off at Terminal 1 so I could just walk or take the trolley to Terminal 2. The driver used the Waze navigation app that updated him with faster routes along the way. With reports of jammed roads, buildings reduced to rubble and chaos throughout the city, it was unbelievable that I was able to reach the airport on time for my flight!

By the time I made it to the airport and took the trolley to Terminal 2, the damaged road that provided access to and from Terminal 2 was already repaired and passable. I was in awe of how fast the crews had worked to repair it. The pavement was dry, and the new road now had an incline from where it had separated. I saw it just as they were removing the caution tape. Amazingly, my flight was delayed only 45 minutes.

While waiting at the airport, the news reports kept coming in showing the devastation and tragedy throughout this great city. The area I was in, Tizapán, did not see the level of destruction that occurred in other parts of Mexico City. I count my blessings that I was safe and very lucky to be unharmed.

I am forever grateful to Alejandro, Andres and the Multibodegas team, as well as Mexico City and how they were so well prepared and knew exactly what to do in an emergency like this. They kept me calm and comfortable as I encountered my first earthquake. My heart and prayers are in Mexico for those who were less fortunate and are struggling with their losses due to this earthquake. I hope soon things will be back to normal in Mexico City, and despite this unexpected experience, I can't wait to visit again!

If you’d like to help the victims of the earthquake in Mexico, please donate to:

GlobalGiving: A global crowdfunding community
Project Paz: NYC non-profit funded by young Mexican-American professionals
Save the Children: Child-focused disaster relief efforts

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