A San Diego-based Telemundo 20 journalist visiting her family in central Mexico said she couldn’t move her feet as the wall of her family’s home collapsed before her eyes during Tuesday’s deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake.
"It felt like the whole house was coming down; it felt like the earth was opening up beneath our feet,” Fabiola Berriozabal, a digital media producer with T20, recounted in a FaceTime video interview with NBC 7. "We couldn’t move or stand up."
Berriozabal said she was finishing breakfast with her mother, brother and grandparents on the patio of her mother’s home in Tepoztlan – a town in the Mexican state of Morelos, south of Mexico City – when the Earth began to shake violently.
"I panicked, and then I saw my brother’s eyes panicking, and then I realized how big [the earthquake] was," she said. "Next thing I know, the pipe is coming down, there’s water falling from the top of the roof."
From where the family was sitting on the patio, Berriozabal said it looked as if the house was "falling towards [them]," which prompted her grandmother to tell the others to leave her behind to save themselves.
"I was scared because you could actually feel it, like in the bottom of your feet," Berriozabal said. "I couldn’t stand still. I couldn’t stand up. It’s just like being thrown around and rattled. We wanted to move away from the house and we really couldn’t until it stopped.”
Berriozabal and her family were able to get to safety. But when they looked back at their home, they saw that a large wall had come crumbling down.
Large cracks ran down the remaining walls, and debris was strewn about the residence. Photo frames holding family pictures were on the ground lying along the length of a staircase.
Holding back tears, Berriozabal said she couldn’t describe the pain of seeing her family’s home damaged in this way. Her mother has lived there for nearly 20 years.
Berriozabal walked over to a wall where pen markings recorded the heights over the years of she and her family members – a wall that holds so many special family moments.
“Memories,” she lamented. “It’s a home.”
Berriozabal said this was the worst earthquake she’s ever experienced. It happened to hit on the anniversary of Mexico’s devastating 1985 quake, which killed 9,500 victims.
Police officers were going around to homes in her mother’s neighborhood checking the safety of the structures, Berriozabal said.
At this point, she said she’s not sure if her mother’s home can be salvaged or if it will need to be taken down and completely rebuilt.
She said neighbors were also devastated by the disaster. One family, trying to keep their young son calm, said they planned to sleep in their car. Their son was crying after the earthquake because he had seen so many adults around him crying, Berriozabal said.