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Trying to escape the shadow of Wenchuan

By Dara Wang | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-15 07:17


Zhang Miya (left) died in the quake. Provided to China Daily

Zhou Lunju, a teacher at Yingxiu Primary School, did not survive the quake. His colleagues and students told of how he had dashed from the computer resources room, passing two exits to reach his classroom and told his pupils to run for their lives. It was three days before a search team recovered his body from the doorway of his classroom.

His wife, Yu, joined the rescue effort, toiling for three days, before hurrying to the hospital in Chengdu, the provincial capital, where Zhou Yuye was being treated.

The days following the disaster barely seemed real to Zhou Yuye, who had lost her father, her teachers and friends, and her school and community.

Her left forearm had been damaged beyond repair by avascular necrosis (bone tissue death) and had to be amputated. At first she felt nothing, but then phantom limb syndrome set in, along with itching and pain.

"I asked my mom to scratch it for me. She just cried," Zhou Yuye said.

Two months later, as she lay in a hospital ward in Beijing where she was undergoing physiotherapy, she watched as her desk mate, Lin Hao, was held aloft during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics by basketball player Yao Ming. Lin was credited with saving two of his classmates from the devastation caused by the quake.

Zhou wins a special drawing award in Shanghai, July 5, 2009. [Photo/VCG]

A month later, Zhou Yuye attended the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, and was among the third group of students praised by the Ministry of Education for the courage they displayed during the quake. Several days later, she was back at school in Sichuan.

Nothing remained of the original school structure except scattered ruins. About half of the 473 students had died, along with 27 of the 47 teachers.

Zhou Yuye and her mother do not know precisely where Zhou Lunju is buried. Every year, they visit a mass grave outside the 5.12 Wenchuan Earthquake Epicenter Yingxiu Memorial. Many of the victims are buried in the tomb, commemorated by an immense stone that bears their names.

Falling silent, Zhou Yuye and her mother pause to remember a father and husband, and teacher Zhang.

Zhou Yuye has fond memories of her teacher. She remembers the warmth of his smile, and how he was "very nice to every student, like a brother". She recalls visiting Zhang's home and playing video games with his son.

She said it was only natural that he stayed and did his best for his students. The idea that he might have fled for his own safety was unthinkable.

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