The Mexico City sky shined a clear, bright blue, an especially beautiful day in a metropolis better known for heavy smog. I had just left a corner coffee shop where I had spent the past hour working with an author on his upcoming memoir. Walking back to the office, I suddenly pitched forward: The ground was moving. Shaking. Roaring. I looked behind me and a multi-story building filled with dormant nightclubs was dancing as if it had been built on a pan of Jell-O.
I rushed into the center of a pathway, a median that offered distance from the power lines and buildings that lined the street. There, workers spilled out of the nearby restaurants—a taco shop, a champagne bar, an upscale spot for gourmet Mexican food, among others—which at 12:02 p.m. were still an hour or two away from the late lunch-hour rush.
The ground seemed to ripple beneath our feet. A woman’s eyes filled with tears as she worried aloud about her son at a daycare. Another man shouted that we keep our eye on that tall building nearby, as its insides banged and screeched, threatening to come down.
In fact, Mexican authorities reported no deaths and only superficial damage. So much has been done here to improve building codes and preparedness since a powerful 8.1-grade earthquake rocked the city in 1985, bringing down hundreds of buildings and killing more than 10,000 people. The March tremor registered at a frightening 7.9, but apart from some cracked walls, broken glass and power outages, the city was largely spared.
Back at my computer, I felt dizzy, as if the ground had recovered from its terrible shudder but my body or mind had not. I started typing, determined not to take the stillness of the moment for granted.