March 2nd, 2010
11:35 AM ET

Solidarity can help Chile prevail

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/americas/03/02/sidner.chile.survivor/smlvid.sidner.chile.jpg width=300 height=169]

Ariel Dorfman
Special to CNN

The earthquake of 2010 is not the first one of this magnitude in Chile's long, traumatic history.

Almost 50 ago, I was watching a soccer match in the National Stadium in Chile's capital when, seconds after a gigantic rumble from under the ground terrified the 60,000 fans attending the game, the mountains suddenly disappeared. I am not exaggerating: The stadium was rocked like a cradle and rose in the air, blotting out my view of the Andes, and then, fortunately for all of us, settled back to stability. We had just been through what is still considered, at 9.6 on the Richter scale, the greatest seismic activity ever recorded.

We soon learned that the epicenter had been more than 400 miles south of Santiago and that the devastation was massive. On top of the quake itself, which had flattened towns and killed thousands, a tsunami had swept our coast, causing even more havoc. A few months later, when I traveled to that region, I saw for myself the masts of large sunken ships in the Valdivia River many miles inland, and the remains of colossal iron-smelting ovens in Corral that had been twisted beyond recognition by the rush of the invading waters.

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