THE DAILY BEAST – ANDREA NOEL
The country watched Televisa’s live-stream through the night, wide-eyed and praying that a 12-year-old girl named Frida Sofia would be pulled from the rubble of the Rebsamen elementary school in Mexico City, destroyed during Tuesday’s earthquake.
For more than a day and a half Mexico followed the rescue effort of Frida Sofia, allegedly weakly clinging to life.
— Graham (@abeari) September 21, 2017
Frida Sofia reportedly knew of other children trapped in the rubble—anywhere from two to five. Frida Sofia reportedly moved her tiny hand. Frida Sofia reportedly said she was tired, though someone had given her liquids. Frida Sofia had allegedly been heard through a microphone fed through the rubble. She had reportedly waved her tiny hand.
“She moved her hand and moved Mexico’s heart,” people across the country tweeted, using the hashtag #FridaSofia.
But there was never a 12-year-old girl trapped in the rubble, alive, at this elementary school—much less alongside other tiny bodies clinging to life. Frida Sofia never existed, authorities confirmed Thursday afternoon.
After learning that Frida Sofia was perhaps actually an adult—perhaps a female janitor—the country is now outraged. The myth of Frida Sofia has died, as hundreds of people have across the region.
Though thermal sensors had detected a living being underneath the rubble, the media ran with wild speculation and comments made by rescue workers, that included reports that the young girl was moments from being rescued alive shortly past midnight on Wednesday.
Later, these reports—first shared by Televisa live on air—rang false as rescue workers who had previously believed the girl was trapped on what would have been the third floor of the building was actually stuck on what had been the second level of the school.Confusion is always high in times of natural disaster. But this case, most feel, was particularly egregious.
Tens of thousands sat glued to their televisions and computers watching the live coverage as Frida Sofia became the number one trending topic in Mexico and a symbol of hope for Mexico, a country dealing with two horrific earthquakes in less than two weeks. International news outlets also ran with the story of the little girl who would soon be saved.
As Televisa claimed the girl was just moments from being rescued, an alarm sounded—a minor earthquake in the southern state of Oaxaca caused the building to be evacuated and rescue efforts briefly halted.Then, moments later, as the rescue effort slowly resumed, portions of the demolished school began to collapse, sending plumes of dust into the air. Spectators watched in horror from the scene, and from their homes, and on streets across the country, as rescue workers took to the microphones asking for steel rods to be delivered to the site to prop up the rubble and avoid further disaster.
Late Wednesday night, after speculation that the girl had spent more than 34 hours trapped under rubble, Mexican politician Aurelio Nuño in an interview with Televisa, Mexico’s largest media company, said: “We’ve spent hours trying to contact the family and haven’t been successful.” He asked that families of the missing come to the scene. Confusion over whether the girl’s name was in fact Frida Sofia began late Wednesday night, after news broke that all of the young girls named Sofia from the school were accounted for. Tweets alleging Frida Sofia had been rescued from the rubble were immediately discredited yet spread wide and far.
But by Thursday afternoon, when the Mexican Navy confirmed that Frida Sofia was not alive, and had not ever been, the apparent unity turned from well-intentioned spectator sport to collective finger-pointing.