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All We Need to Know of Dying

All We Need to Know of Dying

Foto: Presidencia

It’s so quiet now as the rains have stopped in La Antigua and the Central part of Guatemala. This time yesterday the mountains had buried the living with avalanches of mud along the Ixtahuacan region, Alaska to be exact, KM 171. As families searched for their disappeared more were buried, 150-200 the mayor informed us around midnight over the radio waves.  I listened to his voice crack and invoke God’s mercy.

Volcán Fuego rumbled beneath us, a hollow groaning moan of malestar or malaise.

At the bottom of the revine the long bus stuck out of the mud like a cigar tilting out of its own ashes, surrounded by layers of people with blank stares watching as the big Catepillar tractor scooped up mud to pull the bodies out. Already I can feel a numbness, just by knowing how quickly life can be taken away.

“Guatemala made the Swedish headlines,” my friend tells me. I think of the ink splotching the immaculate white of newsprint turning yellow. I think of the large hole in Zone 2 and how we made headlines there, too, while Agatha pounded the rural villages on the West, by the Lake Atitlán, one fell swoop taking twenty houses in Santa Catarina Palopo.

With the firefighters we were poised for a 3 AM night run to dig bodies out, but CONRED warned us to stay put. So we waited in silence, texting, retweeting, Facebooking from afar as the news crews flew in through helicopters in the area that was too unstable even for help crews. Volunteers were already sinking into the mud and more rains were coming.  It was nature’s wrath, it was our whimper.

I felt it all day, even while the sun mocked us with its brilliance in the morning. Is it really better to dig up 37 dead by the light of day?

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