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'We need to pray for them': Moroccan woman in Kansas City describes earthquake aftermath

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Posted at 4:23 PM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 19:03:03-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the aftermath of the Marrakech earthquake, a local Moroccan woman in Kansas City is speaking out about the devastating sights of her home country.

A 6.8 magnitude earthquake ripped through south of Morocco last weekend, leaving remote villages in ruins near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. Rescuers are still searching through rubble and trying to reach survivors in remote communities throughout Morocco.

Kawtar Ben was born in Rabat, Morocco. She grew up and spent her whole life there until 2010, when she got a green card and moved to the United States.

“In Morocco, and all other countries, we always hear about the American Dream," Ben said. "The only thing in my mind was to get better life, better opportunity, for me, for my family, for my life and overall."

While she has been away from home for 15 years, she keeps in close touch with her family. Getting regular phone calls from her mother living in Morocco is not uncommon, but something about the timing of last week’s call felt different.

“She doesn’t usually call me that late. She told me that there has been an earthquake and everybody was safe, but they still felt the shake and people got scared and everybody got outside just to cover,” Ben said. “I thought, 'OK, everybody is safe. I thought it was just like a little shake and that’s it.' But the next day when I woke up and turned on the TV, I said, 'Wow, what just happened?'”

The relatives of Ben’s husband live in Marrakech, a city near the hard-hit villages. They were out having dinner with family when the restaurant started to shake. Ben says people went into survival mode, not knowing they would be left to sleep outside that night.

“As you know, we keep seeing these natural disasters everywhere — like what happened in Hawaii and what happened in Florida. And at that time I feel like these kinds of things will never happen to me, it will never happen to my family, and then here we are. It really happened and it makes you think, okay people need to get ready anytime — these kinds of things can happen anytime,” Ben said.

In the aftermath, nonprofits and disaster relief organizations are jumping in to help. Hundreds of Moroccan Red Crescent volunteers are on the ground, here locally, Heart to Heart International and the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City are assessing the need.

“We’ve got a partner agency there called the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee with people in Marrakech and Casablanca and just other parts of Morocco, just kind of evaluating, you now, what are the needs — water, food, shelter, medical supplies… And so we’re raising money locally to be able to send globally to address those needs,” Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City Vice President and COO Derek Gale said.

Gale anticipates thousands of dollars in aid, but more than any resources or monetary donations, Ben is asking for prayers.

“That’s the only thing I think. We need to pray for them,” said Ben.

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