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Dateline: Benito Juarez Hospital, Mexico City

A moan, or a groan, anything that sounded like a voice. A clang or a bang, one that sounded like it was made intentionally by a human being as opposed to the street level clanging and banging that was taking place at the site of what, until that morning -- September 19, 1985 -- had been the Benito Juarez Hospital in the heart of Mexico City.

At that moment and the moments, hours, and days that would ensue, more than 10,000 people would die, all of them in one way or another crushed to death by the jolt of the earth – a magnitude 8.1 earthquake followed by a severe aftershock.

Thousands were rescued, but as the days wore on, rescue efforts took on the art of listening. With each cling, bang, or distant voice that either rose or seemed to rise from the rubble, rescue personnel would kick into action, carefully pulling away bits and pieces of debris in a feverish attempt to beat the clock.

Friends and relatives of the missing – of the doctors, nurses, orderlies, patients, and anyone else who might have been at the Benito Juarez Hospital that morning – stood on the periphery of the rubble hoping that the clang, the bang, the voice belonged to a loved one.

There were, at any given moment, and depending on the time of day or night, dozens if not hundreds of people standing, pacing, waiting, hoping.

In the first few days, rescue workers saved several thousand lives, but as the days ticked by, the numbers, along with the collective hope of those walking, pacing, waiting, and praying, dwindled until the numbers, along with the collective hope, were gone – lost – for good.


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