Barbadian football referee Jamar Springer “ran like hell” as a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Mexico on September 19, causing heavy and prolonged shaking in Mexico City, some 40 miles from Toluca where Springer was completing a football referees training course.
The quake, which struck about 100 miles from the capital, killed at least 333 people in central Mexico and injured thousands of others.
Last week’s earthquake came less than two weeks after the most powerful earthquake in Mexico in a century, an 8.1 magnitude quake, killed at least 90 people, destroyed thousands of homes and was felt by tens of millions of people.
The first tremor, which happened about 11 p.m., barely jolted Springer, who told Barbados TODAY he was rather calm throughout.
In fact, he was asleep when it struck, he said, and after his roommate alerted him to the danger, Springer put on his track suit and went down the escape route into the parking lot.
“That earthquake lasted a very long time. I was not scared, surprisingly. To be quite honest I had just woken up so I was still coming to terms with if this is a dream or not. When we actually got down to the parking lot I was like, ‘woah this wasn’t a dream’ and we started to laugh at the fact that I thought it was a dream.”
However, his reaction was vastly different when the second one struck just after 1 p.m. last Tuesday.
“The second one was not as big but it felt a lot stronger. For the first one I was okay, but the second one, I ran like hell. It shook the building a lot more than the first one. We even lost power while running down the escape. And I was going from side to side like a pinball in a pinball machine while going down the stairs.
“To be honest, initially, when the power went out, I thought to myself ‘this might be the last thought that I have right now’. I actually thought that the building was going to collapse but it didn’t. It was built to withstand that type of earthquake,” Springer recounted.
The football referee never imagined the earth could shake this violently, with the closest thing to an earthquake he ever experienced being the tremor here back in 2007.
This probably explains why it took a while before he realized what was happening on the afternoon of September 19.
“We had just returned from training and I was standing next to the cleaner. My hand was on the coffee table and she was standing next to me. I felt the shaking of the coffee table and I thought it was her who bumped into the table and made it shake. But then I realized the table was shaking continuously and I didn’t think she could shake the table that much. She then alerted me that the whole table was shaking,” he recalled.
Springer, who returns home tomorrow, said he initially thought the course would have been cancelled after the second quake hit, particularly in light of the devastation it caused.
“To be quite honest when that happened I thought they were going to suspend the course and send us home. But given the circumstances of where I am in Toluca, this part of the state is more industrial and the buildings are built a lot stronger and able to withstand earthquakes of that magnitude, directors thought it was okay to keep us there,” he explained.
He summed up the entire ordeal as a learning experience. However, he told Barbados TODAY through it all, his mind was on the locals.
“My heart goes out to the people of Mexico, [particularly] the people in Mexico City where a lot of the buildings were old and historic. A lot of people lost their lives. So I wasn’t even thinking about myself I was thinking about them,” he said.
Last week’s earthquake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 quake that killed as many as 10,000 people in Mexico.