At first I did not feel it. But the rocking motion, similar to that of a boat on choppy water, immediately silenced our classroom. My professor’s face grew pale as she pointed to the door: “Earthquake. Everyone move. Now.”

As we rushed from the room, the earth tipped under my feet, as if taking on a life of its own. The combination of earthquake-resistant architecture and a surge of adrenaline enabled me to keep my balance and composure, and my classmates and I safely reached a secure area, from which we could see the jumble of furniture and broken glass through the windows of the library at the university we attend in Mexico City.

On Sept. 19, 2017, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck south of the city of Puebla in Central Mexico, leaving more than 300 dead and causing massive devastation in Puebla, Morelos and Mexico City. This earthquake came just a week and a half after the magnitude 8.1 temblor farther southeast Sept. 7 that killed nearly 100 people, and was followed soon after by a magnitude 6.1 aftershock in Oaxaca on Sept. 23.

The Puebla earthquake occurred only hours after Mexico City’s annual emergency simulation in memory of the 1985 quake that, on the same day 32 years ago, resulted in more than 10,000 deaths and widespread damage heavily concentrated in Mexico City, an area highly vulnerable to seismic activity, as it rests on an ancient lake bed of loose sediment.

As a Marylander, I am a foreigner to what my professor referred to as a cultura de sismo, or earthquake culture, which still makes chilangos, natives of the city, jump at the sound of a car alarm, thinking it to be the blare of the city’s earthquake detector signaling another disaster. The past two earthquakes have retraumatized many Mexicans. The Sept. 19 quake in particular reopened old wounds in the collective memory of a country that remembers toppled buildings and loved ones lost 32 years ago to the day.

The psychological impact of the earthquake not only takes its toll on Mexico through the loss of life and livelihood, but also through the constant fear that the earth will move again. My host family told me they know of a woman who, upon feeling the first throes of the earthquake, burst from her home only to hit her head and die from the impact. Can you imagine that kind of fear?

While earthquakes are largely unpreventable natural phenomena, Mexico’s vulnerability to seismic activity is not entirely blameless. Although the government mandated the implementation of new building codes following the 1985 earthquake, a 2016 study showed that 71 percent of buildings constructed in Mexico City after 2004 failed to meet city standards. Inspections of older buildings reveal that they similarly fail to ensure residents’ safety, as demonstrated by the collapse of the Enrique Rebsamen School on Sept. 19, which killed 21 children, despite having been deemed secure in the aftermath of the September 7 earthquake.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage to the residential neighborhoods of Roma and Condesa in Mexico City, prompting many chilangos to set up aid centers in the heart of these wealthier neighborhoods, while poorer areas such as Xochimilco and Morelos remain desperately in need of basic supplies and services. In this way, the earthquake has highlighted many of the deep-rooted issues of poverty and inequality already rife in Mexico.

Suspicious of politicians, relief organizations directly distribute aid rather than going through the government, fearing local leaders will favor their private interests. Some have accused the government of withholding resources, confiscating supplies from private citizens headed to Morelos and putting government tags on water and food to promote its public image during the crisis.

While volunteering at my university and in affected neighborhoods such as Cuajimalpa, it is the people of Mexico City, not government representatives, whom I have seen working tirelessly to rebuild their homes. Human chains form wordlessly to pass food and medicine to eagerly waiting hands; cyclists whiz down dark streets with stuffed animals strapped to their impossibly large backpacks; and dusty volunteers continue to grunt under the weight of concrete and metal. Yet few politicians have stepped in to effectively offer assistance.

Unlike the majority of Mexicans, I will be able to leave behind destruction in December before reconstruction efforts will even be close to complete, returning home to a country where news of the tragedy has already faded from public dialogue.

So many of us at Georgetown are connected to vast professional, activist or financial networks. We have the responsibility to use that privilege not only to aid disaster relief in affected regions such a Mexico and Puerto Rico, but also to support members of our own community affected by these catastrophes.

Grace Laria is a junior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the second installment of Por Otro Lado.

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