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Chilean student shares stories from earthquake

Sam Stryker | Wednesday, March 3, 2010

For Notre Dame junior and Santiago native Rodolfo DisiPavlic, the hours after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake ravaged his home country were a frantic experience.

“I found out at 9 a.m. [5 a.m. in Chile] on Saturday when I tried to check the news sites from Chile and they were all down,” said DisiPavlic, who is currently studying abroad in Bologna, Italy. “Right after I found out, I tried to call everyone’s cell phones with no luck. Then I called my mom’s home phone and she answered.

“Although it didn’t take me too long to reach her, I had never felt [so] desperate in my whole life.”

DisiPavlic said his family was fortunate not to be near the epicenter of the earthquake when it hit.

“At the moment of the earthquake, my mom was in Santiago, and my dad and siblings were in Pucón,” he said. “None of them were close to the epicenter, but a month ago my mom was camping with my brothers in Curanipe, a coastal town that was obliterated by the tsunami.”

Since Santiago was not hit as hard as other areas, the damage to DisiPavlic’s home has been relatively manageable.

“My mom showed me on Skype her apartment. Everything was on the floor and some non-structural walls had cracks,” DisiPavlic said. “My dad’s house lost some tiles and some stuff fell inside, and the pool lost its water.

“It was eerie seeing and hearing all of this and thinking that you’re not safe in your own home.”

Though earthquakes of this magnitude are not common, DisiPavlic said tremors and seismic movement frequently occur in Chile.

“Chile is a seismic country. Noticeable earthquakes happen every couple of months. They are part of daily life in my country,” he said. “We even make a difference between the noticeable [tremors) and the destructive [earthquakes].”

DisiPavlic said his family is trying to proceed through daily life as usual.

“I wanted to go back home as soon as possible, but my dad told me that it would be good if we all behaved as normally as possible,” he said. “I’m going to be done with school here in Italy in June, but I’ll try to finish earlier to go home before that.”

DisiPavlic said he knows the charitable nature of Notre Dame and its students firsthand, and he hopes the relief effort in Chile proves to be no exception.

“I know Holy Cross and the Notre Dame community have deep and long lasting connections with Chile, so I ask everyone to pray for those who have been affected,” he said. “I would deeply appreciate if the University organized relief efforts too.”