Terremoto–dVerse Haibun Monday


October 10. 1986 Earthquake San Salvador

October 10. 1986
Earthquake San Salvador Santa Catalina School–where 42 children died.



Overwhelmed, I stand in silence before the waist-high pile of rubble: bricks, chunks of cement and pebbles. A miasma of dust obscures the entire region like a pall. The taste of death lingers as I look upon the fallen wall that claimed the lives of 42 children barely 72 hours previously…children waiting outside the Escuela Santa Catalina on the last day of school. Children awaiting with eagerness a time of vacation.

The scene repeated itself throughout the city and surrounding locales. Children, dirty and barefoot, scavenged 2 X 4’ in anticipation of future rebuilding. Father’s pitched tents in the byways as mothers chased tankers bearing potable water, returning with the jugs balanced on their heads.

We set up our clinics in the street and a long queue formed as began the tedious process of debriding wounds and administering tetanus shots. At night—a few hours of sleep in that same school that still reeled under the weight of such massive loss.

october monsoons
upcloserealismcleanse the earth with bitter tears
a small flower blooms

On October 10, 1986, the country of El Salvador suffered a devastating earthquake. Already torn apart by civil war and the ensuing unrest and poverty, the people didn’t delay taking on the task of rebuilding.

I was asked by the religious community of which I was a member to lend my nursing skills to the recovery effort. I stayed at the School of Santa Catalina where the children had lost their lives—a school run by our sisters in that country. Nearby, we also ran a 900 bed facility for war orphans that was unfit for habitation. The military set up a tent city and guarded it, patrolling with their submachine guns. So many of these soldiers were just kids themselves.

As it is, today at dVerse, for Monday Haibun, guest blogger, thotpurge, asks us to write about a memorable journey. I could never forget this one—it so deeply affected me. I could write reams about it, but will make it brief. The pub opens its doors at 3:00 PM EST—please join us.

This is a YouTube Video in Spanish about Santa Catalina School.




24 thoughts on “Terremoto–dVerse Haibun Monday

  1. Kate Mia says:

    Catholic Relief..
    a mission worthy..
    volunteers brave wiTh
    compassion.. true brothers
    and sisters of humaniTy Love…

    Appeal to give..
    to help.. pArt i like..:)


  2. Your haiku was both sorrowful and endearing. I suppose that’s how life is, huh? And they say a picture is worth a thousand words. That haiku was worth just as many!


  3. Bodhirose says:

    What a life changing experience, Victoria. It’s especially sobering knowing that so many children lost their lives. Thank God for people such as you who offer selfless service to the survivors. I too love the hope of the flower blooming in your haiku.


  4. A profoundly moving piece of writing. The saddest thing is that it reminded me of much more recent tragedies and disasters.


  5. …well this hits the heart hard. Sad and beautiful. I recently watched documentary on the Tsunami of 2004 Indian Ocean – real footage, people… I think it will always stay with me.


  6. Your vision written in haibun is extraordinary. You certainly bring this to life, Victoria.


  7. Bryan Ens says:

    The mention of the flower in your haiku is a powerful metaphor for hope despite the devastation.


  8. Misky says:

    This set me back, thinking how lucky I am to be writing in a warm room, a roof over my head, and knowing my family is safe and happy.


  9. This haibun makes everything else posted today seem trivial. Thank you for telling us about it.


  10. That smell coats the mind and leaves the soul dizzy with fear and hurt… Your poem described that feeling too well. I’ve been a member of both groups–the small child whose house was ripped half of the grown by a hurricane, and then the young woman who brought water, food and medications to those children who reminded me of me. In doesn’t matter what group one belongs to, the scent of “massive loss” you describe is always the same. Perhaps, as an adult I felt worse about the whole thing, for as a child I always knew that some grown up would feed me. As an adult… well, we know how that works.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. thotpurge says:

    What a profound experience, so well described and your haiku is wonderful too with that little flower of hope. It is a great blessing to be able to help people in their time of need. Thanks so much for writing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. phoartetry says:

    A very powerful haibun, Victora, and your haiku – the bloom to me symbolizes “hope”.


  13. Grace says:

    I have experienced several earthquakes but not as devastating like yours ~ You took me there Victoria, with sight & smell of fear, with the taste of death ~ A small flower blooming in the haiku is filled with hope ~

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This was very touching and vivid. Thank you for sharing this journey with us. Peace, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Somehow there’s a blessing in having experienced, and being able to provide help. But also a memory that’s filled with pain. I love the haiku… That bloom is maybe the one that makes all the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Glenn Buttkus says:

    On the West coast, in the NW, earthquakes are too prevalent. Geologists
    tell us living close to 5 volcanos, we have been labeled as a Danger Zone. Your Haibun rings of such authenticity, it grips us like an embrace; nice job, powerful haiku. To volunteer on a Mission trip is so giving, & beyond the pale of most of us .


  17. What a terrible effect of the power of nature. I can imagine to be there and witness this would have very long lasting impressions . The haibun I think has helped keep you focused and that has made it very powerful. How has the community and families coped with such a tragedy? Your role must have been very challenging but supportive. I spent a bit of time in Peru and there was a ‘normal’ tremor in Lima that shook buildings. Thanks for sharing this and hope all is well with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. kim881 says:

    I would love to take part in Monday Haibun, but it doesn’t seem to have been posted yet. I’ll check it out tomorrow morning. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. kim881 says:

    Such a powerful haibun, Victoria. For those of us who have never experienced an earthquake, not even a small tremor, your writing has conveyed a clear image.

    Liked by 1 person

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