Alive under the rubble, Frida Sofia is Mexico’s symbol of hope.

Video via Channel 9

Mexicans have been holding their breath for Frida Sofia.

The 12-year-old schoolgirl was discovered alive, trapped under the rubble of her school, a day after the devastating earthquake hit Mexico City. TV stations have been broadcasting live for hours on end as rescuers painstakingly try to free Frida without triggering off any further collapse.

It’s believed there are other students buried in there with her, also alive.

“Frida Sofia” has become the number-one trending topic on Twitter in Mexico. She is a symbol of hope in the heartbreak.

Frida was one of many children trapped inside Enrique Rebsamen school on Tuesday. The private school was attended by children from middle-class families.

Jose and Cinthia, Karen and Anet. Each one of them would have had parents who kissed them goodbye on Tuesday morning, just like they did every morning.

But then the earthquake struck, and part of the school building collapsed in on itself.

Advertisement
mexico earthquake
Image via Getty.

Parents rushed to the rubble, terrified at the thought that their children were still inside.
Soldiers and police led the rescue effort. Parents and passers-by began frantically pulling away at the ruins of the building, hoping to find their children or any survivors. Neighbours grabbed shovels and joined in.

"I heard kids crying when I got there and saw them hurt. Badly," said lawyer Silverio Perez.

At first, rescuers thought it wouldn't take long to get to the buried students. They brought in hoses so the children could drink water while they waited.

But as the hours went by, hopes of a quick rescue operation faded.

To know that under there, somewhere, is your child, maybe alive and in pain and frightened. To exhaust yourself, pulling at huge chunks of concrete with your bare hands, hour after hour. For that not to be enough to save them.

Some parents were desperately hoping that their children had got out and been lost in the confusion. They walked around holding up paper signs with names on them: "Anet Michel 7", "Karen Valentina 7", "Cinthia Velaquez 11".

The family of missing seven-year-old Jose Eduardo Huerta Rodriguez went searching in local hospitals, hoping their son might have been taken there. One family member continued to wait outside the school. She was there when Jose's small body was brought out.

"He was still inside the school, and he was dead when they rescued him," his aunt Paola Rodriguez said.

Through the night, the volunteers kept digging away. There were moments of jubilation. Children were dragged out alive. As each one was brought out, a rescuer with a megaphone would yell the child's name.

For the family of that child, their nightmare was over. Their prayers had been answered. Adriana D'Fargo waited, but didn't hear her daughter's name.

"They keep pulling kids out, but we know nothing of my daughter," D'Fargo said, her eyes red.

By Wednesday, enough rubble had been pulled away for one of the volunteers, Dr Pedro Serrano, to crawl into a classroom. He saw the bodies of a girl, a woman and a man.

"We can hear small noises, but we don't know if they're coming from the walls above, or someone below calling for help," Dr Serrano reported.

A day after the earthquake, hope was not lost. Rumours spread that students were sending their parents WhatsApp messages from under the rubble.

And then, the miracle of Frida Sofia.

Rescuers saw a girl trapped in the wreckage of the school. They shouted out for her to move her hand if she could hear them. Her fingers wiggled. She told them her name and her age. Then, the painstaking process of getting her out safely began.

For every miracle in Mexico, there are many more stories of devastated families. Of parents who kissed their children off to school, not imagining it would be the last time they would see them. None of us imagines that.

Through the randomness of where the children were when the school collapsed, some survived, some didn't. We need to remember the ones like Jose, as well as Frida.

So far, the death toll at Enrique Rebsamen stands at 25, with 21 of them children. The total toll from the earthquake is more than 237.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION
FROM OUR NETWORK