Livia Castellanos landed in Mexico City at 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.
Fourteen minutes later, the devastating earthquake hit.
“First, I didn’t know what was happening,” she explained Thursday. “I thought I was dizzy because I flew all night to arrive to Mexico City so at that point, I’d been travelling for 12 hours.”
But then Castenallos, who works for UR International at the University of Regina, recognized it was an earthquake.
“I started seeing that people were yelling and screaming and a man called me and said, ‘Right now there is a big earthquake, come and hold yourself to this pillar,’” she said. “He said, ‘If you hold onto this pillar, even if the ceiling collapses, you will be fine.’”
Castellanos was trapped in the immigration and customs area in the dark, as the power had gone out.
“The only thing we could see, just people against the wall and people yelling.”
Castellanos is originally from Mexico and, at first, she thought it was just another earthquake, like the three she’d previously experienced in Mexico City. That is, until she went outside.
“This one has been the most incredibly strong earthquakes I have ever experienced, like the floor of the airport was moving like it was waves in the ocean,” she explained. “We could see and we could feel how the earth was moving.”
Chaos, fire and smoke filled the air. Public transportation was shut down.
“There were a lot of people tremendously scared and crying, but also, the traffic was unbearable,” said Castellanos.
She then had to find her colleague who was in another part of the airport and figure out an exit strategy.
“I didn’t have much time to feel sorry for myself,” she explained. “I was just kind of going through the motions to resolve the situation and my priority was to find the other person I was travelling with.”
Castellanos said it was difficult to communicate with her colleagues at the U of R. But ultimately, the two were able to get on a return flight to Regina on Wednesday. She now hopes people can donate to Mexico, because there are a lot of people in need.
—with files from Britton Gray