Almost two full days after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed parts of Mexico City, Carlos Enrique Silva and his family found themselves packing up all their belongings into two white pickup trucks, as an unwanted rain-shower trickled down.
Tuesday’s powerful quake had rendered the Silva’s home uninhabitable and experts had told them to take everything out and leave.
For days, scenes such as these have become familiar across Mexico City’s upscale La Condesa neighborhood – a trendy, tree-lined enclave in the city’s central western district.
Multiple areas of Mexico City were affected by the quake – with 146 deaths confirmed throughout the capital so far – but the well-manicured La Condesa and neighboring Roma were among the hardest hit.
For Silva, packing up his home so quickly was devastating, but amid the sadness, there were small mercies.
“La motocicleta,” he said and smiled softly. His two seater black motorbike had emerged from what looked like a war zone unscathed – and more importantly, so too had his family.
Less than a block away, those same 48 hours following the quake had felt agonizing slow for Cristobal Perres Garcia, 59. He had spearheaded a rescue mission to pull out the bodies of 12 people who had been buried alive when an office housing a food processing company collapsed.
On Thursday all but two people had been recovered. One of them was Garcia’s cousin, Guadalupe, who had worked in the building.
“As a former bodyguard and a soldier I’m used to suffering,” he said, “but this is a sad day.”
Throughout the neighborhood, groups of friends and family had gathered, eerily silent, in front of crumbling memorials.
At the Avenida Alvaro Obregon, a group had assembled close to the remains of a collapsed office block, where more than 35 people were thought to have been trapped.
Marco Antonio Garcia Salsedo hadn’t left the site since the day of the earthquake. His cousin, Angel was believed to have been in the building when it collapsed.
“We know he is in there and we are waiting for him,” Garcia said.
Garcia was leading on a clue that a friend in New York had delivered to him earlier that morning: Angel somehow had placed a phone call to a friend in New York from inside the rubble on Thursday morning.
Although Salsedo had been holding onto hope that his cousin was still alive, he had lost trust in something else – the authorities.
Along with a sizeable grouping of other families at the site, Salsedo was concerned that the government rescue team would use heavy machinery to expedite the operation.
“I’m here to be vigilant,” Salsedo said.
Instead, Salsedo, like many other families, had placed his trust in local volunteers – primarily young, well-mannered residents who had helped to comb the site in search of life, and comfort families affected.
Abigail Hernandez Cardenas, a high school counselor had arrived on the site on Wednesday to volunteer her skills as a psychologist.
“People come to me for food, for shelter, for water, for support. But they come to me when they are feeling hopelessness above it all,” said Cardenas.
Addressing the growing sense of frustration among many of the families present, Cardenas said the people of La Condesa must stay positive.
“Faith is the last thing to go. So, when the group heard that the military was going to bring in heavy machinery, they got together and said no … And look what happened. 30 minutes later they (the rescue medics) found someone,” she added.
That person pulled from the rubble wasn’t Salsedo’s cousin, but the rescue renewed his hope that the next person found alive might be.