Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tears of Joy and Sorrow

Stories from aftermath of Sichuan Earthquake from a local Chinese daily, Nanyang Siang Pau on 17th of May:

After the 43-years-old police officer, Lee, emerged from the rubbles caused by the earthquake, he rushed to his quarters to rescue his colleagues. Suddenly, he remembered his son in the nearby secondary school. He found a bicycle, and cycled as fast as he could towards the school.

As he approached the school, he saw children crying at the school courtyard, a few school buildings had already collapsed. The 5-storeys building where his 15-years-old son was studying was then 3-storeys high – the ground floor and first floor had crumbled.

“Lee Wang Zhi Guo, where are you?” Lee shouted with all his might.

“Baba, I’m here. Help me!” Lee could distinguish his son’s voice amongst hundreds that responded through opening within the rubbles. Tears flowed down his cheek hearing his son’s desperate and helpless voice. But without tools and machineries, they could only use their bare hands to remove rubbles and debris. His son was buried about a meter from the open within the rubbles, immobilized with his left leg trapped.

He knew that with whatever tools available to them, if he started digging towards his son, he could be saved. But there were others who were buried closer to the open space, easier to reach and had greater chance of survival. Lee requested the surviving people to start digging from the outside in. “Disaster dictates our course of action, “ Lee lamented. That was on the 12th.

Until 13th 5 am next morning, his son’s call for help could still be heard. The rescue team of fire brigade and army arrived. His son’s voice grew weaker as noon approached. By then, Lee and others had already succeeded in rescuing 30 or more children.

On the 14th at 3 am, at long last, Lee’s reached his son. He had stopped breathing.

“ … “

When the earthquake happened at around 12 noon, there were about 200 children in the classrooms of the primary school. As the children panicked with fear, the principal of the school rushed into the classroom and carried the children on his lap and on his back to the open ground.

About 10 meters from the school compound, stood the hostel for teachers, within which the wife of the principal, who was also a teacher at the school, was staying. An old neighbour of the principal couple said she could clearly hear the familiar voice of the principal’s wife shouting for help as the building was starting to crumble after the quake. And she’s sure the principal heard it too. However after 3 to 5 minutes, she didn’t notice anybody rushing towards the hostel from the school. The hostel collapsed, the wife gave out a scream for help.

The principal had chosen the lives of the children over his wife of 20 odd years.

After the quake, the principal spent the days helping to settle the children. Nobody saw the man cried. At night, silhouette of his lean body can be seen squatting in front of the rubbles where his wife was buried, smoke rising towards the darkness of the night from his cigarettes, non-stop into sunrise.

“ …”

May 12th, 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the earthquake struck. The secondary students were studying geography in the classroom. Lee Aun Ling was at the fourth floor. Within 20 seconds, the building collapsed.

Within the rubbles, with the scarcely available lighting, Lee saw her classmate, Lee Yuan Foong. Lee recalled, “I held his hand, I called out his name, no response. His hand was still warm then, in a matter of seconds, it grew cold.”

Immobilised, she shouted out her classmates’ names one by one. Three of her best friends lying besides her stayed motionless, dead. Some of the classmates awoke in the darkness. Somebody shouted, “People, we want to get out alive, hold on!”

Lee recalled, “Somebody then started singing. Those who are alive followed. We sang a lot of songs. One of them was Michael Wong's Fairytales. In that song, there’s a verse that goes, ‘blissfulness and happiness will be the endings’.”

Lying on the corridor of a hospital, Lee was waiting for medical treatment. Her left leg was broken, but she showed no sign of pain. The mild-mannered Lee said, “I’m OK. I’m not afraid of pain.”

“ … “

There are probably hundreds or thousands of stories like these emerging from the catastrophe. The selfless sacrifice of one's life, and the lives of loved ones for others; the unbearable sadness from losing the loved ones, and the ensuing loneliness on the road ahead; the solidarity of humanities united in the face of hardship; the teeth-clenching gritty will to live on to fight another day, with battered body and soul emerging from the rubbles; and the helplessness, the fearlessness, the strength and all virtues of humanity that shine through these stories brought uplifting joy and wrenching sorrow to my heart, tears to my eyes.

Most of all, I felt for the loss of innocent lives of the children. I wonder where had they gone to …

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3 comments:

Johnny Ong said...

with china's strict one child policy, most parents have lost their only child in the earthquake.

on the other hand, a child who has lost both parents have no siblings too.

Patientking said...

My Heart goes out to those who have lost there lives and love ones. This is a great post.

The Minimalist said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. You are a wonderful writer.

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