My daughters, where are you? Within me, little girls, within me

Searching, searching, searching for millions of seconds, minutes, hours. Hoping to catch the gaze of her two daughters. Never-ending anguish, frozen until the very end, and that painful hope of hearing these little voices saying: “Mom, mom, we are here. Mom, mom we are safe.” The story of Mildred Teresa is marked by courage and fear, immense suffering, and hope. A story that begins with the Fuego Volcano disaster that struck Guatemala in 2018, erupting mercilessly and destroying everything in its path. Mildred Teresa remembers everything from that time, a time from which only the ashes of pain remain; and a new time that rises like a phoenix with renewed hope.

A new flower has bloomed from the ashes

It was a day like any other when on Sunday June 3, 2018, our lives were shattered. I was at work when I received a phone call; the voice on the other end, filled with despair, shared devastating news – the Fuego volcano had erupted.

Panicked, I tried to contact my family, but there was no response. I got on my motorcycle, determined to reach the disaster site, my heart pounding heavy in my chest. I arrived around eleven fifty at night, hoping to see my daughters’ faces desperately waiting for me, somewhere in the chaos. Reality was different. I was led to the lifeless, little bodies of my two daughters and my sister. I had to identify them. It was the most horrific experience of my life – a loss too great to bear. 

But I couldn’t stop to grieve. Not yet. I had to find the rest of my family. ‘They can’t have died as well’, I kept repeating to myself. On Friday, we found my grandmother, but I kept looking for four more people: my two brothers, my grandfather, and my cousin. I searched for them with shovels and picks, and we paid for machinery to move the ground. Nothing. We didn’t find anyone. The hardest part when you lose so many family members at once is that you don’t know who to cry for or who you miss the most. The pain of the loss is constant.

Eventually, all survivors were evacuated and taken to shelters located in schools or municipal buildings. Later, we were transferred to Temporary Single-Family Housing that the government had built. That’s where I met the Daughters of Charity who were visiting the survivors. Since I wasn’t eligible for government housing, they offered me to be part of a housing project. Whilst waiting for its development, I had to rent a house and stayed there for almost two years. The Daughters of Charity visited me during all that time.

I remember falling into a deep depression for about six months. I couldn’t sleep or eat and I didn’t want to go out. I became psychologically ill; I had chills and a fever but no physical cause. When I went out into the sun, I covered myself completely as I would still feel cold. I often wanted to smoke because it gave me tranquility. To overcome the depression, I immersed myself in work. During that time, I met the father of my son. With the help of God and the care I received, I slowly began to recover from the depression.

On December 26, 2020, on my older daughter’s birthday, I moved into my house donated through the ‘Welcome Home’ project located in Parramos.

Four years after losing my beautiful daughters, I became pregnant with my son Allan. He was born on January 16, 2023, on my younger daughter’s birthday, and he had the same weight as my older daughter at birth.

Since coming to Parramos, I dedicated myself to work and completed a nursing assistant course. I worked as a project manager, nurse, and municipal police officer. Unfortunately, I had to give up my job when I couldn’t find someone to look after my son whilst at work, and I have now been unemployed for almost two months. We manage to survive with what my husband sends as he had to emigrate to the United States to find work.

Today, I feel at peace with the life God has given me, because not a leaf falls from a tree without God’s permission. I always think that what has been lost can never be recovered, but better things can come. My daughters can never be replaced by anyone. Every child has a special place in a mother’s heart, but I feel very happy and fortunate for the new blessing God has given me: having a safe home to spend the nights and the rest of my life with my son Allan. I don’t have to worry about being asked to vacate or not having money to pay rent. 

Thanks to God and the people who collaborated, I have my life and my home today.