Sam Disston Shares His Earthquake Experience

By Carolyn Clark and Shaun Janis

Inside homes, most damages amounted cabinets emptying with much of their contents broken. Photo: Sam Disston

Junior Sam Disston was asleep in Santiago when the earthquake hit Chile early Saturday morning. He awoke to what he  thought was banging on the wall, but confusion quickly ensued as he realized it was an earthquake. Although Santiago was less affected than other areas of the country, Disston has seen quite a bit of superficial damages to buildings with some structural problems.

Q: Where were you when the earthquake hit? Were you with people? What were you doing?
A: I was in my house sleeping; it was nearly 4 in the morning.

Q: Did you realize what was going on? If not, what were you thinking?
A:At first I thought someone was banging on the wall but as the bed began to shake I realized what was happening

Q:How were any people around you reacting? Was it chaotic?
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A:My family was screaming and crying, everything crashing around made the noise pretty intense.

Q:What was going through your head at the time? Fear? And how are you holding up now?
A:Like I said it was probably more about confusion than fear but if I was afraid of anything it was that the building might collapse.  It’s amazing how much these buildings can move without falling down.

Q: What does the damage look like? To your home, to the homes around you, etc.
A: Most of the damage to my house was superficial and inside, though there is some structural damage to the building, and the gas and water are still out, but we are at a family member’s house now.  Most of the homes look fine though. Some of the older ones have lost some bricks and such.

Q: How have the local authorities been handling the situation? What have they been advising people to do? Do you think they’re doing a good job of keeping things together while keeping people as calm as possible?
A:The president has declared a state of catastrophe or emergency.  The people here are very calm about it although in some of the areas harder hit that I have seen in the news there is some looting and crime.  The interesting thing is that all the firemen here are volunteer, all of them, so I found that pretty interesting.

Q:Were you able to get in contact with your family quickly? Did you talk to them first or did SU alert them that you were safe before you got in contact?
A:I wasn’t able to make it to the “meeting place” but I was able to call the program director with a cell phone and he had SU get in contact with my parents early in the morning following the quake.

Q: Besides your family, have you been able to get in contact with people easily? Have you talked to friends at SU or from home?
A: Yes, I have internet so I have Skyped with my whole family and such.

Q: How has life changed in the past day since the earthquake hit? What do you expect to happen in the next few days?
A: Basically things have just become a little more hectic. No one is really sure what to do.  We go from one house to another, classes have been postponed, and we basically just hang out eating and drinking.

Q:How has SU Abroad been handling the situation?
A: They have been great. Everything went according to plan.

Q: Are there any plans for any changes for the program? Will you be staying in Santiago or relocating at all? Would you want to relocate?
A: No, normalness should resume shortly.

Q: How are your host families holding up? This must be a terrible experience for them.
A: They are fine, just upset about the damage to the house.  Some of the other families though have not yet been able to reach their relatives in the south of the country where the damage is more extreme.

Q: What are the dangers right now?
A: In the city of Santiago, nothing really.


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