First person: KTVU's Allie Rasmus has family in Mexico City

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I've covered a lot of natural disasters in my career, but it is strange when you recognize and know the areas impacted from your own personal experience.

I have family in Mexico City and have been visiting them there at least once a year my entire life. I lived there for a period of about four months after college, when I interned at Univision's Mexico City bureau and lived with my grandparents.

When I heard about an earthquake happening in central Mexico on Tuesday, about 11 a.m. PST. I immediately called my aunt and grandfather. The cell phone connection was bad, but she was able to text me that they were ok. It wasn't until her power was partly restored this morning that I was able to talk to her in more detail and learn how much their neighborhood was impacted.

They live in a part of the city called Coyoacan, in a neighborhood less than a mile away from the Escuela Enrique Rebsamen, the school that collapsed during the quake, trapping dozens of students and children. Authorities confirm at least 21 kids in the school were killed.

Another apartment building a few blocks from their house also collapsed.

My aunt's neighbor shared photos and videos with her that she then passed along to me. Her neighbor said she and other residents ran to the scene of the collapsed buildings to help, bringing shovels, water and first aid supplies to emergency responders.

I would describe my family's neighborhood as middle class, with plenty of apartment buildings sprinkled between single-family 3-4 bedroom homes. It's the kind of place you feel safe walking around on a normal day, and like every corner of Mexico City, it is always busy and bustling with people and traffic.

But not today.

My aunt said the morning after the quake, you can hear ambulances and sirens, and the shouts of people and neighbors mobilizing, as they continue to help with rescue efforts. Most of the residential buildings in Mexico City are made of concrete. (You just don't see homes made of wood there.) There are fallen concrete slabs along the streets and mounts of dirt partially blocking the sidewalks. My 92-year-old grandfather said yesterday's tremor was the strongest, scariest earthquake he had ever felt, and that it seemed like it lasted "forever" (He was not living in Mexico City during the 1985, 8.0 earthquake). A cousin, who works on one of the upper floors of a highrise in the downtown "Reforma" neighborhood told us she watched a building nearby collapse before her eyes.

My aunt also sent me pictures and video of the shopping center we always go to when we visit, which is walking distance from their house.

Galerias Coapa is no different than a shopping mall you'd find here, like Stoneridge or Sun Valley. It's a newer concrete building with movie theater inside and a multi-story parking garage attached. One of the pictures she sent me shows the pedestrian bridge between the garage and the mall broken apart, no longer connecting the two structures. It was strange since I knew I have walked over that bridge dozens of times.