BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) – Saturday’s devastating earthquake in Ecuador hit close to home for a Bradenton woman. Gisela Herrera-Pardo learned that four of her relatives died when a building collapsed on them.
Herrera-Pardo grew up in the coastal town of Pedernales, Ecuador. On Saturday night her aunt Marjorie Macias was at home watching her three grandchildren, 4-year-old Thiago Zambrano, 23-month-old Leah Zambrano and 21-month-old Elias Cepeda.
Herrera-Pardo said shortly after feeling the tremors, Macias reached out to a relative by text. “My aunt Marjorie had sent her a message, ‘Oh my God there was an earthquake. It was horrible. I’m just gonna go to church,'” she said.
But the aunt never made it. “Till the end she was hovering over those children, trying to protect them,” Herrera-Pardo said.
Herrera-Pardo first learned of the deaths through friends and relatives on Facebook. She initially dismissed them. “People would post things on Facebook, ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’ And I was pissed because to me she wasn’t dead. Not yet. I never lost hope.”
Macias’ own daughter found her body in the rubble.
“How do you find your mother dead with your two sons there?” Herrera-Pardo asked through tears. “I don’t know (how you handle it).”
Herrera-Pardo has received pictures and videos from her relatives, showing the massive devastation. The destruction is unbelievable. “As if a bomb passed by or if you’re in war,” she described.
The Bradenton woman is very close to her Ecuadorian family. She just saw them in January. Herrera-Pardo was unable to travel for the funeral.
“It’s very painful to not be there right now,” she said.
She hopes others will donate to this devastated country because the tragedy is not just pictures on a TV screen, it’s real.
If you’d like to help the victims of the Ecuador earthquake, a number of international relief agencies are collecting donations for aid. These include the Ecuador Red Cross, World Vision, UNICEF and Samaritan’s Purse.