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Greetings from Puebla

SHSU students and faculty members are safe after the June 15 earthquake in Mexico, where they are attending a field school in Puebla. Here are some thoughts and photos sent by Frieda Koeninger, assistant professor of foreign languages, who is the field school director. This was how faculty and students felt about it all June 19, four days after the quake.

The Puebla Field School group in the Hotel Palacio San Leonardo, 24 hours after the quake: faculty members Frieda Koeninger (school director), Kay Raymond and Doug Berg, and students Ryan Bolz, Mandy Bowles, Camille Bridge, Ann Cap, David Cronan, Joel Diaz, Daniel Fowler, Anna Garcia, Marcus Gonzalez, Maria Lemus, Silvia Lopez, Dorothy McCreight, Nidia Medina, Kari Pease, Jaima Punchard, Christie Schiller, Mary Sowell, Sabrina Torres, Rolando Trevino, Esmeralda Vasquez, Edward Villarreal, and Alejandra Ruiz Contreras.
Frieda Koeninger
We are all doing really well. We are very fortunate--the construction of the hotel is excellent. Many businesses were back to normal the next day after the quake: Vips (restaurant) was functioning the next morning, plate glass windows already replaced; also the Gilfer Hotel had replaced windows and reopened by the afternoon; Sanborns checked for structural damage and reopened the next afternoon.

Unfortunately, some of the old buildings have severe damage--the Jesuit church around the corner from us has an imposing crack running down the tower; the Municipal Palace has major damage in the walkways around the courtyard--the army is still there keeping people away and carrying away the rubble in dump trucks. Also the little church on top of the pyramid of Cholula had damage to its side chapel. These are places we take students to. It is very sad to see this.

News reports say that two people were killed in Puebla. I don't know if this is true--just from talking to people there seem to have been more. The government usually encourages the press not to alarm the public--although the newspapers are full of pictures of destruction.

As you can tell from the comments of the students, we have a wonderful group of kids. They all stuck together and supported each other. After about an hour (after quake)n Rudy Trevino suggested that we all say a prayer of thanksgiving, so we all stood in a ring, with our arms around each other, and had about a minute of silent prayer.

Also, 24 hours after the quake, Doug Berg, Gerardo Ruiz Kuri, Ann Cap and Mandy Bowles. Ruiz is a Mexican citizen and SHSU alumnus who has been a great help to the field school staff and students.

Student Comments

Kari Pease
My experience in one word: unforgettable. Before the earthquake this experience has helped us grow, mature, and broaden our Spanish skills. After, it has united us for a lifetime. Nothing, not even an earthquake, would prevent me from recommending this trip to others.

Daniel Fowler
Was the earthquake included in the tuition?

Ann Cap
Studying abroad in Puebla, Mexico has been an experience of a lifetime! The earthquake that was centered in Puebla only added to my experience and even added value to the economics class that I'm taking. This entire trip will stay with me forever!

Rolando (Rudy) Trevino
I am increasing my knowledge about the language and learning with the "Pueblanos." The earthquake was an awakening to my faith in God. This is definitely an unforgettable experience! I love Mexico!

Restaurant staff left early on the evening of June 15, but early the next morning all staff were back on duty. Pictured, Heriberto Castro Morales, capitan of the restaurant, with students Camille Bridge, Marcus Gonzalez, Dorothy McCreight, Sabrina Torres and Mary Sowell.
Dorothy McCreight
The hours and days following the Puebla earthquake I saw a city and hotel react quickly and efficiently to the crisis. I also saw three teachers and 24 students react admirably to this experience. After a group prayer and tears of thankfulness, we found the humor in running outside in bare feet, bathing suits, and in one boy with only a towel wrapped around him. Our concerns turned to our families and trying to reach them to assure them of our safety.

Edward Villarreal
David, Ana and Alejandra asked me if I wanted to go to the internet café. I told them that I would meet them there because I wanted to take a shower first. About 10 minutes later (after talking to a friend in Brazil and telling him that everything is OK, and I'm having a great time) I started to step into the shower. Five seconds later I felt a strong jolt, which felt as if I was standing on a shaky washing machine. At first I thought about the volcano "El Popo" but after the second shake, which knocked me against the shower walls, I thought "Earthquake!!!!" I feared that the building was going to collapse on me, so I immediately jumped out, managed to grab a towel and zoomed into the hallway...I heard all kinds of noises, crashes and crying, saw the door close and ran down the stairs like lightning. On the ground floor, some people found it amusing.

Camille Bridge
For the first few seconds of the 'sismo', I was sleeping. My first reaction was that my roommate, Mary, was trying to wake me up by jumping on my bed. Then we all ran out of the room, as our windows shattered and doors flapped open. I was the one who was the strong one and kept them calm. Nidia and I tried to console everyone by saying, "It's okay. We're all okay." The effect of the earthquake didn't hit home until we saw the injured people around us. It was one of the most memorable experiences for me. Something to tell my kids and grandkids.

Christie Schiller
I realized that it was an earthquake when my bed started bouncing around, almost levitating. After it was over, I had to return to my room to get shoes. I started crying when I saw a huge crack across the wall. This was really the first time that I was scared. As soon as I knew that everyone was OK, I began to thank God for being so generous. The next day, I was impressed with how well the government had helped clean everything up.

Spanish students studying for the mid-term exam: Maria Lemus, Rudy Trevino, Dorothy McCreight, Anna Garcia, Nidia Medina.
Anna Garcia
This was the first time that most of us had ever experienced an earthquake. It was a great shock to all of us. Living in Texas we don't experience these kinds of things, therefore we were all grateful for the help that was received from the people of Puebla. They handled the situation great. We are still a little shook up, but things are getting back to normal. This experience only brought the group even closer since our families are so far away. I was surprised to see many of the buildings that we had visited a few days ago were damaged. I will never forget this.

Joel Diaz
Reaction after the earthquake: As hours passed by, I started to realize that this natural phenomenon could have occurred anywhere in the world. True, the experience was not a pleasant one, but looking at the bright side this experience makes me even stronger as a person. I feel fortunate to experience the entire recovery process of the city of Puebla.

Doug Berg's economics class began making a study of the economic impact of the earthquake. They are, from left, Sabrina Torres, Edward Villarreal, Alejandra Ruiz, Esmeralda Vasquez, Sylvia Lopez, Ann Cap, and Jaima Punchard.
Mandy Bowles
My entire experience in Puebla has been no less than phenomenal. The earthquake only added more to the experience. What a thrill!

Jaima Punchard
Wow--what an experience! Where else could you experience a new culture as well as an earthquake! The hotel management was very efficient during the chaos! Overall this is one experience I will never forget!

Nidia Medina
I felt the bed shaking but had no idea what it was at first. I just know I felt like I was in a washing machine in the fast cycle when it shook harder. I finally realized it was an earthquake and told my roommate to jump in the shower, since the walls should be sturdier. We saw everyone leaving, so we did too. I wasn't scared until I saw the damage.

Esmeralda Vasquez
The earthquake shocked everyone but eventually we all jumped back to normal having the greatest time of our life.

Mary Sowell
Although the earthquake was one of the most frightening experiences I have encountered, the quick responses of the hotel staff and my teachers did much to calm my fears. The efforts of the Mexican National Guard and Mexican government were most impressive. Within minutes various teams of specialists arrived to survey damage and begin repairs. The earthquake was a terrible event, but the people of Puebla are in good hands because their government seems extremely efficient and helpful. The students on the trip also were in good hands because our teachers and the hotel staff had continued concern for our safety and well-being.

David Cronan
I was in the middle of all the devastation when the earthquake hit. I was with Mr. Ruiz's daughter Alejandra and Anna. We were in the cyber café e-mailing friends. Alejandra said did you shake the table. I said no. Then all hell broke loose. I grabbed the two girls one on each side of me and I ran to the door jamb and stopped. Then I saw huge (5 lb. to 300 lbs.) pieces of rock hitting the street. There were people who had blood all on them. I then turned toward the corner and rode it out. After it was over we started walking back to the hotel and were in shock to see all the destruction. There were cars crushed with people still in them. There was a lady who was lying on the street all bloody. There was so much confusion that for our safety we sat down on a bench in the park and tried to calm down. I have never been so scared in my life. I saw stuff that I will never forget. After about 15 minutes we headed back to the hotel and when we rounded the corner my group saw us and all started clapping. I threw my hands up and yelled "Thank God." I wanted to cry I was so happy. It was bad but I am glad I came on this trip.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Frank Krystyniak
June 23, 1999
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