The three-story school structure had pancaked into a pile of concrete slabs
Diego Luna was in his native Mexico City when the magnitude-7.1 earthquake rocked the capital on Tuesday night.
The Rogue One and Flatliners star was taking part in a photo shoot for a new play when the photographer’s studio started to shake violently.
“The whole building started moving,” Luna, 37, tells USA TODAY. “I lived through 1985, which was a big, big earthquake. So I was pretty calm. I came out of the studio, and I realized that everything in the building was moving. The concrete looked like gelatin.”
When the shaking stopped, the deadly trouble started, with structures collapsing even nearby.
“As soon as it ended, I heard a noise like I had never heard in my life,” Luna adds. “That was basically a building collapsing half a block away from where we were. We ran to the street. And we see a gigantic cloud of dust. I am just remembering this. It’s horrible.”
What makes Luna truly emotional discussing the Mexico City quake, with its death toll now at 324 people, is the spontaneous reaction he saw from his fellow citizens. People’s immediate thought was to help others despite any dangers.
“The beautiful part of this was people were not running from the cloud. People were running to the cloud, running there to try to rescue someone and see what could be done,” says Luna.
The disaster came 32 years, to the day, after the magnitude-8.1 quake that devastated Mexico City in 1985, killing an estimated 9,500 people and destroying about 100,000 homes. Luna says Mexico took major lessons from that disaster.
“We learned that when something like this happens, it’s you that has to go and do something about it,” says Luna.
Among his efforts, Luna has started an Omaze fundraising page with fellow Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal to raise money. The fund already has pulled in more than $300,000 from more than 5,000 backers. But a thankful Luna insists more is needed.
Rescue efforts continue for people who might have survived the earthquake trapped in buildings — “There’s still hope in finding people alive,” says Luna.
But there is a compelling need to help the mass of survivors.
“The losses are huge. It’s hundreds of thousands of people that lost everything in a minute,” says Luna. “The problem is, we live in a poor country. There’s a need to bring the most basic stuff to all of these people. The needs are fantastic.”
Meanwhile, there is very little belief in the Mexican government, where money “goes into corruption,” he says. Ultimately, Luna is heartened by what he sees from his countrymen on the ground.
“This makes all of us responsible for the life, the health and the happiness of others,” says Luna. “Once you understand that, it’s clear that my responsibility is not just about me or my kids. It’s about my community. It’s about my neighbors. That fraternity, that love and compassion is very strong and powerful. We’re seeing a lot of that in Mexico.”
To read a message from Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal and donate to their Omaze fund, click here.
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