Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Days of Mourning

Now that I've been in Beijing for two full days, all the dramatic stories I've heard, read, and seen about earthquake victims and rescue efforts make me realize how great the Chinese are together and how small I am as an individual. Here are just a few stories I want to share:

Yesterday I heard many Beijing residents talk about adopting newly orphaned children from the earthquake region. They mentioned they really want to support and love these children because they know how much they need families. Orphans from the Tangshan earthquake 32 years ago also shared their memories of learning they'd lost their parents. On one hand, they were sad and lonely, but they also felt lucky to receive support from the government, schools, and relatives. One woman told about raising her four sisters and brothers (she was 17 at the time) and about all the difficulties they encountered as orphans. When the siblings heard about Sichuan earthquake, they immediately contacted each other. One sister wanted to rush to Sichuan to help the children—to feed them, tuck them into bed, and keep them warm and loved.

A father hadn't seen his son, a high school senior, for four years since leaving to work in another region. Upon hearing about the earthquake, he hurried back to the school and found soldiers searching for survivors under the collapsed building. He told them he desperately wanted to see his son, alive or not. Finally the soldiers found his son under a huge column, but it was too late to save him. Still, they spent five hours removing the column so the father could see his son! The man was so moved by the soldiers' efforts, he thanked them again and again.

One young woman, engaged to be married in June, was trapped in a collapsed building. Her fiance heard her voice and urged her to hold on while soldiers rescued her. He asked her if she wanted a Chinese-style or Western-style wedding, and what kind of clothes she'd wear at the ceremony. He told her she shouldn't give up and would make it out alive. After one day's effort, she did!

In a particularly poignant story, a 9-year-old boy was pulled from a collapsed building after people heard him crying. As a rescue worker carried the boy to another location, a man in the crowd suddenly shouted the child's name. "Dad!" the boy cried in response. Everyone was so moved; they asked the father why he was helping to rescue other people instead of only looking for his son. The man said he wanted to save everyone he could and if he did that for others, surely someone would save his boy in return. As they walked back home, they met the man's wife on the street. So this family of three was united even as they helped others around them!

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of touching stories, but all I can share now is this common attitude among the Chinese: If we have a 1% chance to save lives or even find victims, we will make a 100% effort and more. Every one of us is standing with the quake victims and making every effort to support, help, and be with them.

The three days of mourning are almost over. I am listening to the radio now, to sad and beautiful poems and songs dedicated to the victims. This is the first music I've heard on the radio during these days, and it is beautiful and profoundly moving. The familiar songs of my childhood have become the most suitable requiem and powerful voice for the victims. These songs will always be with them and with us, too.



Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing that with all of us =)