When everything you’ve worked for your entire life comes crumbling down and the people you love are taken from you, it can be hard to stay positive.
In 2017, Central Mexico was hit with a devastating natural disaster that killed hundreds, injured thousands, and destroyed cities and homes in mere minutes. For many, the destruction was too much to bear, but thankfully, an unexpected hero gave them the strength and hope to keep going…
A Seismically Active Region
Mexico is situated on several tectonic plates, which makes it 1 of the most seismically active areas in the world. Over the years, the country has experienced several devastating earthquakes, like the 1985 Mexico City earthquake that killed 10,000 people.
Exactly 32 years later, in September 2017, the city was honoring the anniversary of the historic natural disaster and held a national earthquake drill at 11 a.m. They had no idea at the time, but just 2 hours later, the region would be rocked by yet another disaster…
2 Hours Later…
At around 1:15 in the afternoon, Central Mexico experienced a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake that lasted for about 20 seconds. A warning was sent out about 20 seconds before the quake began, however, many thought it was just another drill.
According to the National Seismological Service (SSN), the epicenter of the quake was 75 miles from Mexico City and powerful shaking was reported for about a minute afterward. While that doesn’t sound like much, that is a long time for an earthquake to last and it showed in the aftermath…
More than 40 buildings collapsed and at least 369 people died as a result of the earthquake. More than 6,000 other people were injured during the violent disaster that damaged countless more buildings, school, and homes.
A State Of Emergency
Because of the destruction, fires, gas leaks, and the fact that more damaged structures could collapse at any moment, the areas most affected by the earthquake were immediately evacuated and a state of emergency was declared all across Central Mexico…
A Civilian Evacuation
While everyone else was being evacuated from the areas hit with the most damage, first responders, including 3,000 active-duty troops from the Mexican Army and Mexican Navy, made their way into the city to clean up debris, search and rescue victims, and perform security missions.
The Main Goals
In the immediate aftermath, the main goal was to prevent more buildings with major structural damage from collapsing and to search for people trapped under the piles of wreckage in the hopes of saving as many lives as possible…
Frida The Labrador
Since it can be nearly impossible to detect if there are bodies or victims buried deep under the wreckage, a yellow Labrador Retriever named Frida and 14 other rescue dogs from the Mexican Navy’s (SEMAR) Canine Unit were deployed to Mexico City to help rescuers track down victims with their hypersensitive noses.
An Impressive Track Record
Since Frida was trained as a search and rescue dog with the Mexican Navy, she had dedicated her life to saving the lives of people during emergency situations. Throughout her long career, she has rescued 53 people, 12 of which are still alive today thanks to her tireless work.
Just a few weeks before being deployed to Mexico City, Frida had been working in Oaxaca, searching for people after the area was hit by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake that devastated the area. The work was exhausting, however, the 7-year-old dog knew there was still more work to do when another earthquake hit Mexico City.
Getting To Work
As soon as Frida landed in Mexico City and got on the ground, her handler, Israel Arauz, dressed her up in her working gear, which included a vest, dog boots to protect her paws, and special dog-sized goggles to keep dust and debris from getting into her eyes…
Searching The School
Frida and her handler, who have worked together in landslides, gas explosions, and earthquakes, spent most of their time in Mexico City searching the debris of a local elementary school to retrieve the bodies of 19 children and 6 adults who were killed when the building collapsed on top of them.
A Miraculous Discovery
During the search, Frida miraculously found 11 more children trapped under the wreckage that were still alive and never would have been able to get out on their own. After Frida lead Israel and other rescuers to the spot where the children were, they managed to get them all out alive…
Refusing To Give Up
At 7 years old, Frida is considered an older search and rescue dog, but she refused to let her age stop her from saving as many lives as she could. At times, Frida would work for so long that her legs would give up and Israel would have to carry her out to rest and refuel.
After taking some time to rest, Frida would get back up and head back into the debris. Her refusal to give up not only inspired her fellow rescuers, but it gave hope to devastated people across the country who watched Frida on the news as she refused to give up…
At one point, the President of Mexico even saw what Frida was doing for the victims of the natural disaster and what she was doing for everyone’s morale. “This is Frida. She belongs to SEMAR and has helped save 52 lives in various natural disasters at national and international levels,” the president wrote in a tweet to thank Frida for her service.
“It’s a source of pride to work with Frida. She’s a very, very special dog,” said Israel. Soon after videos of Frida spread online, people around the world were praising her for her tireless dedication to saving lives. In the months that followed, an artist even made a mural of her in Mexico City to commemorate what she did for them…
“She is a symbol of strength and hope in these times and I painted her to bring positivity to Roma Norte, a very affected area of the city that I love,” says San Diego artist Celeste Byers, who painted the famous mural along with local graffiti artist Uneg.
For Israel, it’s especially nice to see Frida get the recognition she deserves since she is getting older and is estimated to only have another year left in service as her senses get weaker. However, after a life of hard work, Israel explained he is going to adopt her officially and make sure she finally retires and gets to relax like she deserves.
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