Erin Grace, a Transylvania University graduate and North Oldham High School teacher, is back home after surviving last month's devastating earthquake in Chile.
"When I saw Kentucky out the window, I was giggling and clapping," said Grace, 28, who arrived at Louisville International Airport Wednesday.
Grace is a Spanish teacher who was on a one-year leave of absence to study at the Universidad de Concepción, which was near the epicenter of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on Feb. 27.
She was dancing in the early morning hours when her world started shaking.
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"At first I thought it was the dance floor shaking because there were so many people on it," she said. "Then the lights cut out, then the ceiling fell on my head."
Earthquakes are common in Chile. School children prepare for them like children here take part in fire drills, Grace said.
"Everyone was very calm. It was 'Walk, don't run.'"
There were so many aftershocks that people spent the first night out of doors, she said. Then a relatively small number of people started looting, creating a situation she described as more frightening than the earthquake.
"The looting started with water because everyone needed water," she said. "That led to taking food, and that led to taking booze and electronics and washing machines and sofas."
Grace stayed with the relatives of her roommate in a house on the edge of town. She wasn't due to leave until July, but she booked the first available flight back home.
By the time she left, the electricity was back on, but water still was scarce.
Still, she said, she admired the way people in Chile were able to deal with a major crisis.
"If I'm ever in a natural disaster again, I'm going to try to find a Chilean because they just go into the mode and start meeting basic necessities," she said.