Pregnant Salvadoran grieves, hunts for lost son, husband-to-be


SANTA TECLA, El Salvador, Reuters

Sitting on a heap of rubble while Salvadoran rescue crews search for the bodies of her husband-to-be and 10-year-old son, Raquel Barrera mumbled about shattered marriage dreams and the unborn baby who gives her the strength to carry on living.

“We were going to get married in a week or two,” Barrera, six weeks pregnant, told Reuters in the middle-class neighborhood of Santa Tecla, where authorities said on Monday about 1,200 people were presumed buried after Saturday’s earthquake triggered a massive mudslide.

“I’m pregnant and that gives me the will to live, keeps me serene,” said Barrera, 33, a pharmaceuticals saleswoman, who was working away from home during the quake.

When the earthquake hit early Saturday, Barrera said her partner and son were on their way out of the home. After it happened, Barrera rushed to what had become a sea of mud, debris and panicked survivors.

“I fell apart … I was lost … I felt I had been beaten,” she said. “I think this is a nightmare … that he is going to show up around here looking for me.”

All Barrera had of the belongings of her partner, Bayardo Reyes, 43, were a briefcase with his teaching material, a cherished softball, his baseball uniform and a pair of worn-out boxer shorts among a few items of clothing.

“I hated those shorts … I’d asked him to get rid of them and here they are,” she said as she tried to find the scent of her husband in the shorts.

Barrera said her groom-to-be, a substitute elementary school teacher, was her pillar of strength as they lived on the hillside around Santa Tecla, which is about 12.5 miles (15 km) away from the capital San Salvador.

“He taught me to look at the bright side of life … to be strong in the face of adversity,” she said of Reyes.

Friends of the couple who met her at the site took her in to help her start coping with her loss. “I felt better after I rested, read a psalm and felt I had accepted what had happened,” she said.

“What consoles me is my family, my friends, to know that I am not alone,” Barrera said.

Reyes, who was Cristian’s stepfather, loved the boy as though he were his own, she said.

As rescuers continued with earthmovers, picks and their hands looking for corpses, Barrera said she would remain there every day until her husband and son are unearthed.

Barrera said Reyes had asked Cristian, who lived with his grandmother, to go to the couples home so they could prepare the boys schoolbooks before he started a new schoolyear on Monday. “I think (Cristian) was a little angel of God sent so they could part together,” she said quietly.