Mother urges fellow Chileans to cling to hope after long trek to find son

By Federico Quilodran, AP
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Woman’s trek to find son inspires

SANTIAGO, Chile — A woman who hitchhiked 400 kilometers (250 miles) to find her 8-year-old son safe after Chile’s earthquake and tsunami is urging her fellow citizens to persevere as the country struggles to recover.

Denisse Quezada, 32, had left her son, Matias, with his grandparents for summer vacation in the Pacific beach resort of Curanipe. When she couldn’t get through by telephone after Saturday’s magnitude-8.8 quake and tsunami, she decided to leave her Santiago home on foot.

“When you have a child, you will do anything for him,” Quezada said Thursday.

“I saw the death and destruction were widespread and I told myself I couldn’t stay — he’s my only child,” she said, adding that she started out against her husband’s advice.

Quezada hitchhiked south — assisted by motorists and even police who heard of her trek from a Santiago radio and TV station — and reached Curanipe late Sunday. The town was devastated by the tsunami, but Matias and his grandparents had fled to a hilltop after the earthquake and were safe.

“I found him on the hill. At first I didn’t recognize him because he was so dirty,” Quezada said.

President Michelle Bachelet congratulated Quezada and her son Wednesday.

will not be displayed