WASHINGTON – “The ground opened up,” said Anna Hernandez, 34, “and I just started to pray.”
Hernandez, of Silver Spring, was visiting relatives in El Salvador on Jan. 13 when a massive earthquake rocked the country, killing more than 700, leaving an estimated 1 million homeless and causing $1.5 billion in damages.
Hernandez said the sky was clear and the weather mild that day in the small town of Colonia Milagro, where she had traveled with her sister and 2- year-old daughter, but that she “felt strange” before the earthquake hit.
Her daughter, Diana, was standing between two 4-foot potted plants, watering flowers outside their home, when the earthquake caused the heavy plants to crash in front of and behind her, barely missing her.
“For me, it’s a miracle,” Hernandez said. “(The plants) could have killed her.”
Hernandez was relaxing in the living room when she felt the tremors start around 11:35 a.m. and ran for the front door. She grabbed her grandmother — who had started down the steps outside their home — tightly by the hand and heard Diana screaming and crying at the bottom of the steps.
The ground was shaking so violently that Hernandez said it was impossible to walk during the 45-second quake. That, and the fact that her 90-year-old grandmother was having difficulty standing up, made it impossible for her to reach Diana, despite her efforts to do so.
“I just started thinking about God,” Hernandez said.
Her sister and her mother were in the city of Santa Tecla shopping for fruit when the earthquake hit. She said her 58-year-old mother “just fell down and started to pray in the middle of the street,” slightly hurting her knee.
Her mother-in-law, who was running toward Hernandez’s house from across the street, suffered the worst injuries when a tree fell on her, breaking her arm and leg.
“It was terrible, everyone was screaming and crying,” Hernandez said. “And I was so worried about my daughter . I forgot my brother was sleeping in the bedroom.”
She said she is very fortunate that none of her family members were killed.
Hernandez and her entire family, who attend church regularly, attended a Mass outside the next day because their church had been destroyed by the earthquake.
At home in Silver Spring, meanwhile, her husband and two sons learned about the earthquake hours after it occurred on that Saturday, but they were not able to confirm that their family was safe until Sunday afternoon.
“We were worried at first, but after we went to church,” at 7 p.m. on the day of the earthquake, “we prayed and we weren’t worried anymore,” said Pedro Hernandez, Anna’s 15-year-old son.
The family was reunited in this country Jan. 17.