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Special to AC360°
On Tuesday I woke up to the sound of the television in the living room. A sharp contrast to how I’ve woken for the past three mornings: to temblores that shake me awake.
A friend, camped out on my couch, had been watching a movie with the volume way too loud for 7:20 in the morning. Originally my couch surfing friend was supposed to catch a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina Saturday afternoon. But because the Santiago airport is now open only to national and incoming international flights, Mr. Surfer is trapped for the foreseeable future.
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It was an uncharacteristically cold and gray day in Santiago; very strange because the past four months have been sunny and warm with almost no sign of rain. It is my girlfriend’s birthday at the end of the week so I thought I would make my way down to the antique mall to see if I could find her a gift. Secretly my hope was that there would be something I could pick up that was slightly damaged from the quake and, therefore, a bit cheaper.
It’s been more than four days since the 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck and out on the street commerce is now back in full swing. The debris from the damaged buildings has been almost completely cleared away and only sparse sprinkles of broken glass remain stuck between the cracks on the sidewalks. It appears as if people here have returned to their rightful places on the streets and cafes. The topic of conversation, however, has changed and the concern about the wellbeing of friends and family are often the first words out of people’s mouths.
Though much cleaning has taken place, major physical evidence still remains from those two minutes of severe terrestrial epilepsy. Although the majority of Barrio Providencia’s contemporary glass and cement structures seem to have been unharmed, there are a few that were not so lucky. On my way to the mall I had to pass La Inglesa Providencia, a beautiful, beige, dated cathedral which has sustained some considerable injury. The wooden roof of its once lengthy bell tower had collapsed during the episode and now serves as fodder for rubberneckers.
At the mall, I was sorely disappointed. While some objects had fallen out of place in their display cases, there was little to be found in terms of discounts on damaged goods or anything damaged at all. One of the shopkeepers told me that even though there were many delicate artifacts in the mall, the antiques have remained relatively unharmed through what could only be described as unbelievable luck.
After picking up something special, I was walking home when I encountered a line of people along the block filled with frustrated faces. Of course, it was for the LAN airline’s regional office and the people in line were those unfortunate passengers, stuck waiting for their supposed flights out.
I arrived back at my apartment just in time to catch the Hillary Clinton press conference, to see the photographs in the newspaper of a police officer with a pistol drawn directly to the throat of a man and to hear the news that military forces had gone so far as to shoot and kill a looter. It became clear that there are two worlds in this narrow country and that once again I was fortunate to be a part of this one.
Editor's Note: Andrew Rubin is an American living in Chile and working for a Oceana, an ocean conservation organization. He lives and works in Santiago and blogs at chicodepez.wordpress.com.
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