Downtown Talca after the Earthquake

Downtown Talca after the Earthquake

A poem written by Global Ministries missionary Elena Huegel


I walked downtown today
as I have countless times before,
crossing the main square to the post office
then heading up South One, the shopping street.

Weaving in and out, avoiding
people columned like dominoes
round the corner and
up the steps into the bank.
The lady selling band aids,
out-shouts other vendors,
and beggars,
and the music escaping from shops
to gulp down the morning breath of
coffee or fried food.
The policeman with the police dog watch
just like any other day.

It brings me up short.
I twist my head, ears straining
To fill in what is missing
behind the familiar noise…
Deafening silence.

I walk a little further and
I perceive
past the cacophony of
Screaming silence.

My heart skips
a beat
or two.

I, the one who loves silence,
  who pursues quiet
  like the photographer who seeks
  the prized instant
  when the shutter snaps and
  freezes time,
am frightened.

While others weep before the walls fallen,
  the holey roofs imprisoned behind the
 barrier of red warning tape,
 and the buildings condemned by orange
 spray paint crossing out another burial site,
I am engulfed by the
raging silence.

Two blocks, then three; and
silence hunts me down, a mountain lion
intent on its prey. My legs stay but my pounding
heart runs away, failing  gallantly
to imagine the stolen sounds
that left behind the

I turn into a busy street,
welcoming as never before,
the hum idling at a stoplight,
the screech of brakes,
the roar of revving motors, that
drown out the
of downtown Talca after the


Elena Huegel, a member of Iglesia Cristiana de Guadalajara, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Guadalajara, Mexico, serves the Pentecostal Church of Chile (IPC). She is an environmental and Christian education specialist.