THORNTON - The bodies of more than 20 elementary school students were found under rubble in Mexico City after a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on Wednesday.
Search and rescue teams said they're working around the clock, looking for 30 additional students who remain unaccounted for.
A pastor in Thornton, who used to be a missionary in Mexico City, said the losses literally hit close to his former home.
"I can't even imagine what parents are going through seeing and experiencing that," Pastor Ryan Thomas said.
Thomas is now the pastor at Victory Church in Westminster where he preaches for the Spanish speaking congregation. He used to live in Mexico City and says the elementary/junior high school that collapsed during the earthquake is a school he knew well.
"We used to live in the house across the street," he said, "that school was part of our lives for several years. These are people that I could have met, people that I could have run into."
Pastor Thomas was 7 years old when he first moved to Mexico City. Two weeks after moving there, he experienced the deadly earthquake of 1985, which hit exactly 32 years before Wednesday's disaster.
"You saw old buildings collapsed and people screaming from inside those buildings. As a 7-year-old, that affected me for years," he explained. "The images, the smells, the sights, it's difficult to describe to someone and it sticks with you."
The traumatizing experience is part of the reason Thomas became a pastor, he said.
"There's a shock that happens against your soul," the pastor said, "knowing the trauma that people in this life suffer, you want to help."
Rescuers said eleven people from the school were successfully rescued. They will search through the night hoping to find the 30 students who are unaccounted for.
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