03/01/2010 Update: New York Times Photo Gallery of the Earthquake

I thought you all might be interested in this—an account of the Chile earthquake from the Santiago Temple President’s wife.
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…we heard from our Santiago Temple President, Tom & Cheryl Lyon, written by his wife, Cheryl:

Thanks to all of you who have emailed your concern for us. We can state unequivocally that we’re fine. We can also state with the same emphasis that riding through that quake in our rocking fourth-floor apartment was for me the scariest experience I’ve ever been through!

I was sure we were about to die – that either the ceiling would fall on us or that we’d collapse through the floor. It truly was an emotion I’d never experienced before. My whole body shook for the next two hours, and after that I couldn’t stop crying.

We didn’t even have the presence of mind to get out of bed during the quake. I felt paralyzed, staring at the ceiling and wondering when the earth would stop rolling. It was the longest two minutes of our lives! We could hear things falling out of cupboards, and pictures falling off the walls. But the sound and the movement was the worst.

Our sturdy building held up fine. Just lots of dust and a few broken dishes. But elsewhere, as I’m sure you’ve seen on the news, people didn’t fare as well. Lots of damage. Virtually no stores open. Most parts of Santiago still have no electricity. Collapsed overpasses have closed major highways. The airport is closed because of damage, and planes have been rerouted to northern Chile or to Argentina. Our new missionary doctor was to arrive this morning, so I don’t know where he and his wife have ended up.

What a joy to walk into the temple and find it in perfect condition. We just had to close a few drawers and straighten a few crooked pictures. It felt so good to be there in that peaceful refuge and find normality. Moroni did lose his trumpet, however! That was the only noticeable damage.

How grateful we are for how well the Church takes care of us. We’ve often thought the 24-hour emergency lights in our building were excessive, but we were surely thankful for them at 3:30 this morning as everyone was evacuating the building – including the missionaries downstairs in the MTC. It was so disconcerting to get out of bed in the dark and stumble over fallen items in the bathroom. We got just a taste of what the Haitians have suffered, though their damage and deaths have been so much more devastating, even though their quake a weaker one. So far here they’re reporting 123 deaths, but we assume the toll will climb.

We had to decide what to do about the temple. We had every session booked for the day, and wondered if people would arrive. We met with one of Tom’s counselors – who had arrived at 5:00 for the early shift, as faithful as ever – and our registrar. We knew it would be difficult for the employees and workers to get to the temple and there was not electricity at the time. One faithful laundry sister came a great distance to help, but there was no gas for the dryers, so she had baptismal clothes from last night lying out all over the laundry.

The temple has an emergency generator which roars into action the second the power goes out. But we learned that it runs on petroleum which lasts only four hours. By 8 a.m. we knew we were about to go dark again, so we made the decision to simply close the temple for the day. Then, just in the second that the lights began to dim, the power came back on! (We’ve learned since that we’re the only section of Santiago that has power yet.) So then we decided to hold just one session, since we had three out-of-town couples staying in the hospedaje who were expecting to receive their endowments and be sealed today. We mustered all the missionary couples, along with a group of faithful sisters who work the late shift on Fridays and then stay over for the Sat morning shift. We had a most moving morning. The quake had brought such a sense of unity to workers and patrons, and the Spirit was amazing. I’ve seldom had such a moving experience at the veil – with three consecutive young sisters who were receiving their endowments.

Right now we’re sleep-deprived, and Tom has already gone back to bed. The stress has left us exhausted – but we’re alive and well! We’re still feeling aftershocks – called “replicas” in Spanish. They’re reported about 25 of them. One just rolled by as I was writing this.

So, that’s the report. After some rest we may venture out and about to see what we can see.

Thanks for your love and concern.

Tom and Cheryl
President of the Santiago Temple

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