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What it's like to survive an earthquake building collapse


Over the past few days, we've seen dramatic footage of survivors being pulled from the flattened buildings in Turkey and Syria. It seems impossible that anyone could survive something like that. But more than a decade ago, Cheslie Mesidor did. She was a college student in Haiti.

CHESLIE MESIDOR: January 12, 2010, started out as a typical, normal day. And I was getting ready to go to the university. Little did we know that day would change our lives forever. I remember sitting down, taking the exam, and I - we started feeling the room shaking. And as we got up to run to the door from the second floor to go outside, everything went dark. When I came about, I didn't know where I was, what happened. All - everything was dark. All I heard was screaming all around me.

MARTIN: The floors above her and the building where Cheslie and her classmates were taking their exams came crashing down.

MESIDOR: The classroom we were in collapsed so bad that all we could do was lay down flat on our backs. We could not sit down. We could not move around. We just stayed like that for 16 hours straight. And with the help of our parents, other professors and students, they were able to locate us, dig a small hole big enough to pull us out. We basically had to put both our hands up, and they would pull us from our arms and out to - out from the hole. And when I got out, the first thing I saw was sunlight, a lot of people in the yard. I saw cars. I saw the breeze. And of course, I saw my mother just crying.

MARTIN: Cheslie says she tries not to think about that day, but when she sees what's happening in Syria and Turkey, she can't help it. The memories come flooding back.

MESIDOR: And talking about it today is getting me emotional. But my heart are with all the victims and their families. And I try not to really go back to that day, but with what just happened in Turkey and Syria, it's like I was living it all over again emotionally. So what I can tell them about hope - it's to be there for one another. You don't have to go through that to feel their pain. You don't have to experience that to feel what they are going through. Yes, you will never fully understand, but at least have some empathy, sympathy and whatever you can do to help them.

MARTIN: That was Cheslie Mesidor sharing with us her story of surviving the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.