Chilean-born Kent mom reacts to major earthquake back home

KENT, Wash. -- For a woman living in Kent, the Chilean earthquake hits a little too close to home. The Chilean-born mom has watched the tragedy unfold before her eyes.

Friday, Sept. 18, is Chile's Independence Day. And Susana Mella is making 400 empanadas for a party at her church to celebrate the biggest day of the year in her hometown. But back home in Santiago, Chile, no one is celebrating after a magnitude 8.3 quake struck off the coast and sent a tsunami onto coastal areas. At least 10 people have died.

“I tried to call my mom, my dad, my brothers. You know, I couldn`t do it. The lines were just...” Mella trails off.

Finally her niece called Wednesday evening.

“She wanted me to know that they are safe. Don`t be worried for that. They are fine,” Mella said from her couch Thursday. “I`m worried about my mom because she is a little sick.”

Susana knows this terror from experience. In 1985, she was a 15-year-old in Chile during one of the most violent earthquakes in history.

“Houses on the ground. People crying. Oh, it was terrible,” Susana added. “People outside of the houses. Afraid their house is going to come down.

“If you have health, that`s the important thing. Open your heart because I know God is with us. If we are still alive, we have a purpose."

So while Susana prays for her family and friends back home, she`s staying busy in the kitchen, honoring her country`s strength and resilience.