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The Era of Catastrophe Essay

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“You look beautiful!” I say to her.
“Gisel, tell me something I don’t know,” she responds with confidence.
She is a forty-year-old woman that age like wine. A female who works as a dental assistant by day and a full-time mother by night time taking care of the family and work at the same time. My mother manages to take care of the matters she needs to and still has enough in her to brighten anyone’s day. Her existence is so interesting that one can think she doesn't trip any problems in at any given time. How many people can manage to stay like that? She’s got that strut in her stride and a smile that is as big as the moon. Her supportive attitude through the good and bad times is what I cherish about her the most. This woman goes by the name of Martha Prado, and I am pleased to call her my mother.

The exceptional qualities she possesses did not just come overnight, but they developed over time. Martha says she has experienced trials, blessings, heartache, joy, and love in her life. It is not easy to find a woman like her who has gone through all those things to be strong as she is. She must be exceptional and unique from other women. “Tell me something about where you grew up mum,” I ask her. The story that follows makes me emotional wanting to know more and more as she continues to narrate. Martha grew up in Mexico, and at the age of twenty-one years, she relocated to the United States. As an immigrant from Mexico, my mother has suffered natural and unnatural tragedies, but the best part of it is that she has survived all. Among the tragedies that she has survived include the 1985 earthquake in Mexico, the Mexican political killings by the drug cartels and the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City. The devastating events have modeled her into the hardworking and brave woman she is today.

Martha was deprived of her childhood at a young age. Growing up in Mexico, it was essential for her to become emotionally tough since fatalities were widespread in Michoacán where she lived. She was a victim of one of the deadliest earthquakes ever seen in Mexico. On September 19th, 1985 at 07:19 AM an earthquake that lasted for 90 seconds killed about 10,000 people. According to the information from Mexican Encyclopedia, Mexican city received 80% of material damage. “You could see tons of my people living on the streets, trying to find food; it was just horrible,” Martha reports. A total of 250,000 people were left homeless as a direct result of the earthquake.

As she explained this, I could see tears coming out of her eyes. I could feel the depth of the catastrophe that happened and picture out how people suffered from the earthquake. Just like any of the survivors, she lost many loved ones during the event. She explains that the event made her strong. The struggle to help those who were homeless and provision of food to the needy made her strong. She strongly believes that the help she provided to the affected people opened the narrow gates of success to her life. Since death was a common thing in her country, she believed that every individual should take time to give and forgive others. “You never know when things like this happen again my daughter,” she expressed.

Days after the earthquake, Martha and her family worked hard with whatever materials they could afford to continue getting access to vital services like food and water. Power had been disrupted making it difficult for operation at night.”The most vivid memories of that night were of my people digging in the piles of rubble, with no lights, no electricity, and with no help from the government. All you could hear was constant screaming from within fallen buildings. My hands were in pain while I was digging for hours in the dark trying to help as much as I could. Many lives were saved that night, many were lost as well,” she mentioned in grief. Knowing she wouldn’t get anything in return, during the day Martha volunteered in the soup kitchen to the diggers working and by night she dug all through.

“My community needed me. My hard work and dedication paid off, and it made me who I am today. To never give up on what seems impossible, trust me, work hard pays at the end,” she explained. The strength of the words made me feel emotional and motivated. How did she manage all these? Other people were busy looking for new places and shelter, but here she was, volunteer at all times. It made me feel like our desires are not all we need, helping or giving a helping hand is important sometimes. I kept on asking myself, what happened next? One of the officers working in the food delivery camps noted her hard work. She had volunteered for six months, and nothing good seemed to be coming. “I was helped by the officer,” she explained. After several months of struggling in Michoacán, she managed to enter the United States and secured a place in New York City. I was touched by the story and learned that life is a journey, things happen that one cannot predict. If she had not volunteered and helped the wounded, perhaps she could have never gotten an opportunity to live in the United States. Perhaps I will be living in abject poverty up to now.

After four years living in the United States, Martha witnessed one of the most tragic events in the U.S history. On September 11th, 2001, there were four coordinated terrorist attacks by Islamic terrorist group al Qaeda on the United States. Among the four targets was New York City. “My husband and I were at the MetLife building when this horrific attack happened. My heart dropped down in fear because my sister worked near the World Trade Center,” Martha said. As reported by New York Times newspaper, the assaults by the terrorists were planned taking fifty minutes for the attack to occur. Unexplained was how the terrorists boarded the jets and overpowered the crews. As she describes, the skies snowed with ashes, the air thick and toxic with the streets full of police. My mother in deep grief went berserk trying to contact her sister. “She went straight to voicemail! My husband was telling me to calm down, but I would not budge.” Thankfully after an hour, Martha was able to get in contact with her sister. I could see the love of family in her eyes. I felt grateful for having such a mom. “You shouldn’t show love and affection only in times of danger, but all the time of your life,” she told me. The event taught my mother a lesson of fear and loss. It showed her the power of one event that changed her life forever.

Three years after the New York City attack, Martha misses her mother back in Mexico, and she decides to go back with her husband to Mexico. She was glad that she was home and the environment was peaceful. Martha could see children playing on the streets, and she could go every day at noon to get an ice cream pop to feel the peace in the street. The calm environment in Mexico came to an end in 2006 when the Mexican government declared war on drug cartels. An estimate of 23,000 people disappeared from Mexico during that time. 40% of the disappeared people were young teens of age 15 to 19 years (The search for Mexico’s missing children). My mother pointed out that there was no federal database of missing persons. “The number of bodies rose twice as fast,” she said. “The hills I used to play on as a child are now cemeteries. Women could not get outside in fear of being molested by the cartels. Even though I was behind closed doors, I couldn’t imagine what could happen if the house was broken into. I just wanted to go back to States,” she explained. She explained that she wanted to put an end to the violence through protests. Were it not for her mother; she could have been among the victims who died during the peaceful demonstrations in September 26th (The search for Mexico’s missing children). Martha still wanted to stand up and help. How brave was she to stand up after such events? It reminded me of the struggle for independence lessons we learned, that were it not for the bravery of the people, then slavery could be the routine up to date. I felt motivated by her bravery that eventually the situation in Mexico calmed down even though she did not participate. It is ten years now since Martha left Mexico. She is brave enough to face any life challenges in whichever manner they will come.

The events that have happened in Martha’s life have brought a significant change to who she is now. The heart to help others during the Mexican earthquake gave her an opportunity to get into the United States. Who knows, perhaps she could be back there in Mexico. The love that she posse has been natured by the event in New York City where people lost their loved ones. I am proud to say that my mother loves and cares for everyone in her life. The hard-working spirit that I envy in Martha has been instilled by the events described above. She came to the United States with no place to stay, but she has managed to build us a home and secure a job that we now depend on. I cannot forget the bravery that she has to encounter any life challenges that come into her life. She tells me that she is prepared for anything to come now that her life is full of bad luck. I admire my mom.

October 26, 2021
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