Peruvians find unity in earthquake's aftermath

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PISCO, Peru — The tremor lasts only a moment, but Amparo Guerra can't mistake the familiar feel of the earth moving in waves beneath her feet.

Her forehead wrinkles in panic as she screams, "Get away from the building!" and herds her sons, Aldais, 12, and Jeanpeer, 11, away from the brick wall in Pisco, Peru.

Guerra, her husband and two sons now sleep in a tent on the street. They're still wearing the clothes they wore Aug. 15 when an 8.0-magnitude earthquake destroyed their rented apartment in Pisco.

The tremors that jolt residents of Pisco two to three times a day have left many paralyzed with fear.

"I'm scared to death," says Justiana Ramoz, 76. "Every little thing frightens me."

Ramoz climbs over the cement rubble that once stood as the front wall of her home.

With tears streaming down her cheeks, she walks through the vacant dwelling and gestures toward the ceiling beams that hover just above the bedroom floor.

"All eight of my children were born here," she says.

Like Guerra, Ramoz now sleeps on the street outside her home. Ramoz' children live in the area, but rather than stay with them, she sleeps outside her home to protect her property.

Though residents of Pisco and the surrounding areas affected by the earthquake are still fearful of tremors and looters, International Mission Board missionary Wayne Brinkley says a sense of calm has overcome the chaos.

"They still want people to help," Brinkley says, "but they're pooling together their resources, and they're starting to help themselves."

In Los Pollitos, a community just outside Ica, Peru, neighbors gather around a pot of spaghetti. A young woman sits on a stool with the pot at her feet, mixing the pasta with her hands. People contribute what few soles (coins) they can to help provide meals for their community.

Similarly, Brinkley plans to distribute food to four "community kitchens" that will, in turn, ensure the 300 families in Los Pollitos are given food.

A preliminary relief team is stationed in Ica, Peru, to assess the needs of surrounding areas and bring relief to smaller communities like Los Pollitos that have not received government aid.