“Fire” Volcano Erupts Close to Antigua

Earlier this week, Thursday, September 13,2012, a mushroom cloud appeared in the sky and soon thereafter, our tiny little town of Antigua, Guatemala was on the main page of international websites around the world.  The volcano known as “Fuego” (aka “Fire”) is one of Central America’s most active volcanoes and it overlooks our small town, Antigua.

As a popular tourist destination and one of Guatemala’s former capitols, Antigua is about 10 kilometers from Fuego making it’s smoke expected visual entertainment about once a month.  Thursday’s eruption however, was more than entertainment, it was a natural disaster.  Various sources cited that approximately 11,000 people were forced to evacuate while up to 10,000 were on standby in case the winds changed.  Most of people in danger were of indigenous villages of the Kakchikeles people. Being perched on the side of the volcano and quite isolated made it difficult for evacuation missions.

Despite the imminent threat, several individuals who could be reached ignored the evacuation order and remained in their homes.  Interestingly enough the most common reason for not evacuating was fear of having their personal belongings robbed.

In reality, the bigger fear should have been about the volcanic ash.  With tons of ash being spewed, concerns ranged from health conditions to the safety of planes flying in and out of Guatemala. Classes were canceled and entire universities shut down as well.

Thankfully however, the winds didn’t shift and there wasn’t another eruption after the main one.  As of today, many families were given the word that they could return to their homes, or what’s left of it.

Considering that gravity of the situation, there is a silver lining that I noticed during these last few days. One thing that has been quite interesting about this whole episode is the incredible outpour of support and comments coming in from all over the world from people asking about their teachers, our school, and the people affected by the eruption.  It gives me hope that we are changing lives and making an impact in the world, all from our cramped, tiny little office space in Antigua.

To many of our students and their parents, no longer is an event like this another place on a map, it’s a relationship, a person, the realization that people are being affected.  All of a sudden, it’s personal.

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