SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Joel Freston and his wife were just wrapping up a week-long vacation when the walls of the Mexico City International Airport began to shake and tiles tumbled from the roof.
The Frestons who live in San Francisco's South Of Market neighborhood were safely back at San Francisco International Airport Wednesday on one of the first flights out of the devastated city, feeling rather surreal about what they had experienced over the last 24 hours.
The couple was going through security screening at the airport for their trip home when the quake struck on Tuesday afternoon.
"We were literally putting out bags inside the metal detector when it happened," he said. "We just had to leave our bags and our passports and everything right there and run. Everyone ran."
Joel Freston said the experience was terrifying.
"It was pretty terrifying at the beginning," he said. "It seemed to last forever. I never been in an earthquake before even though I've lived in California for a while. I thought in Mexico City they are pretty used to these kind of things, but people started screaming, running. So that freaked me out even more...Things started shaking and swinging. It seemed to last forever."
Joel Freston said while there wasn't the kind of catastrophic damage like in other areas of Mexico City, the airport was battered by the temblor.
"As soon it was over, my wife and I crouched against a pillar," he said. "When it was over, there were these tiles stacked up as if they were crushed together...Like somehow everything started crunching together...Tiles crashed from the ceiling. Tiles crashed from the floor...Fell off a wall. That was just the airport and I think the airport was built to handle that (the earthquake). "
The Frestons spent the next 12 hours in the airport, watching the stunning news reports from other areas of Mexico City.
"We were watching video of the city's devastation," he said. "The city was ... It was awful."
Jose Cernan was at a relative's home near the university with his wife and children when the quake rocked the building.
"It was very bad," he said a he walked through San Francisco International Airport. "We were on the third floor (with) my son and my daughter and it was very, very scary...I was getting ready to pack...We started running down the stairs."
"Fortunately, the building stayed up... A few blocks away it was very, very bad."
Cernan said his family who live in Mexico City came through the quake unharmed.
"Unfortunately, other people did not have the same luck," said Cernan.
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