1976 Earthquake in Guatemala (MK perspective)


This was my experience of the 1976 earthquake in Guatemala:

I was sound asleep. Bang, bang, bang… The doors of the closet made a huge racket. And somebody was shaking my bed. I was only six at the time, and I yelled to my sister, “Stop it!!” Then I realized that she couldn’t possibly be shaking the closet doors and my bed at the same time – they were too far away from each other. I sat up.

My 2-year-old sister was yelling in the next room, “My bed is running!” Her crib had wheels, and the crib was actually moving across the floor. My dad ran into the nursery to get her, commanding my older sister and I to come downstairs immediately. We obeyed. I don’t remember being scared. I do remember being excited because it felt like we were on a ride at an amusement park. I had no idea thousands of people in that city were dying at that moment, crushed beneath their own houses.

When we got downstairs, I heard dishes crashing. The electricity was off. We lit candles. My dad and mom were talking. They told us to sit down in the living room. Our house was made out of bricks, and they felt that we would be safer staying in the house than going outside. Power lines were down, and we could get electrocuted.

We prayed. We waited.

It was the middle of the night, and we were not allowed to go to bed.

What goes through the mind of a child as she tries to make sense out of a strange situation? I was thinking that our house was built like the third little pig’s house. It was good to build houses out of bricks, because they were safe.

Eventually we must have gone to bed. The next day, as we were driving around Guatemala City, I was stunned to see houses leveled and rubble everywhere. Some houses were half standing, and to my six-year-old mind, they looked like life-sized doll houses. Someone needed to clean up. Everything was a mess.

For weeks after the earthquake (a 7.6 on the Richter scale), there would be aftershocks. Each time there was another aftershock, I would run down the stairs to look at the circular picture on the wall. It was swinging back and forth. I waited until it stopped swinging before going back upstairs. It became normal and routine.

Years later when I moved to California to go to university, I couldn’t understand why people were scared with small tremors that you could hardly feel. If rebuilt adobe houses didn’t fall down during aftershocks, the odds that a reinforced American building would fall during a small rumble were quite slim.

The 1976 earthquake in Guatemala was just one of the many stories I have about growing up as a missionary kid. To keep up with my MK posts, like my MK page on Facebook.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp (more information)
Join our occasional newsletter for new articles, videos, encouragement, a Bible crafts e-book, & more!
We hate spam. Your email address will not be shared with anyone else.

Tags: , ,

8 Responses to “1976 Earthquake in Guatemala (MK perspective)”

  1. Melissa says:

    When you mentioned the brick house the first thing I thought of was the three little pigs. Apparently my mindset is that of a young child’s at times!

  2. Wow! What an experience. How cool that your mom and dad were so calm and able to make wise decisions during that scary time. I love the hear your perspective as a child. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Julie says:

    it sounds like a scary experience! I’m sure after the earthquake your missions picked up because people were seeking hope with Jesus?
    Thank you for sharing!

  4. WOW! I must say, I have never experienced an earthquake. I like how you say that you weren’t scared as a child! This reminds me to have child-like faith in our Father. I’m glad you all stayed safe, to continue your mission work. I’m sure there was a lot to accomplish after the quake!

Leave a Reply