At 11 a.m. yesterday, residents in offices, schools and housing estates across Mexico City took part in an earthquake drill timed to commemorate the catastrophic tremor on the same date in 1985. Just over two hours later, a real, 7.1 magnitude quake shook the capital and surrounding states, making skyscrapers sway like they were made of paper, shattering windows and roofs, and toppling entire apartment blocks.
When the quake struck, I was on the twentieth floor of an office building, which moved up and down like a fairground ride as books and folders crashed onto the floor. I wanted to immediately run for my life, but had to wait until we we were told to evacuate, and walk down the twenty flights of stairs in the pitch black, touching the wall for support.
As millions like me poured onto the streets, battling to make their way to their homes and loved ones, it became apparent it had been the most devastating tremor in Mexico since that Sept. 19, 1985 disaster. Within hours, the government declared that more than 200 people had been confirmed dead while many more were buried under the rubble of smashed buildings that had were scattered across the city.