Tragedy unleashes a great unifying force

Sunday May 25, 2008

By CELESTE FONG

THE May 12 Wenchuan earthquake is a tragedy that few of us will ever forget and most of us will remember how this tragedy became a great unifier in China.

We are with you (Wenchuan quake victims)!

Almost everywhere we went in the affected areas of the quake zone or Chinese cities, we saw this slogan.

People often say tragic experience can be a crucible and this devastating magnitude 8 earthquakewas one, for both the people and their government!

Two hours after the massive earthquake struck Sichuan, Premier Wen Jiabao flew from Beijing to Chengdu.

He reached the Sichuan capital around 7pm and rushed to Dujiangyan by 8.30pm.

The ruined city was in inky darkness and the Premier and his team relied solely on a diesel-powered engine for lighting.

Wen has been leading the relief operations since and making numerous trips by various means to reach the people in the affected areas.

When I left for Beijing on Friday, Wen made a second visit the quake zone even though he had earlier covered most of the places to check on the situation.

On May 16th, President Hu Jintao joined Wen and called for a meeting on rescue operations again despite passing the 72-hour rescue window.

Saving lives is still the top priorty of their work, the leaders said.

Many affected areas remain unsafe and when aftershocks struck again and heavy rain poured, the rescue team had to leave but a rescue worker kneeled down and begged: “Please let me save one more life before we go.”

A group of ex-soldiers broke down in tears as they were leaving Dujiangyan where they had been stationed in during the rescue operations, when I met them on Wednesday.

“It (the quake) has killed so many lives,” cried one of them.

China Mobile technician Liu Jian Qiu was the first to notice the rolling boulders when the aftershock struck.

He was in Ma’erkang county leading a team of over 20 members to repair broken cables restoring communications in Wenchuan.

He could have run for his life but he shouted loudly for his team to run and he used his life to save a colleague by trying to block the blouders and push his colleague away from danger.

“Our team leader (Liu) saved my life,” Li Wei Xiang recalled.

Before Liu gasped his last breath, his last words were: “I want to go home.”

Touching stories of how teachers sacrified their lives to save their students overflow the media.

As teachers drew their last breath, they gave their students the last lesson and showed them the most beautiful language in the world – love.

I see everyone, leaders or ordinary people, jian shou gang wei (remain dutiful in their respective roles.)

I see strength in the people.

I see unselfish love.

I see hope.

The list goes on.

It’s simply very humbling and very tragic. As tragic as the May 12 Wenchuan earthquake can be, I learnt that tragedy can be a means of grace.

It can be a wake up call in a very serious and profound way.

A lesson to everyone.

And it can also be a force for bringing people together!

It reminds us to appreciate the chance that we too often take for granted – the chance to live another day.

Tragedy can be a blessing if we let it. “Don’t cry,” said a friend who is still in Wenchuan.

And let’s remember the silver lining of the tragedy instead.

 
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About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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