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A new career, a new family, a new life

Updated: 2013-05-09 13:39
(China Daily)

A new career, a new family, a new life

Yang Yunqing shows a helmet, a souvenir from a Shanghai rescue team for his voluntary relief efforts during the 2008 quake, at his Epicenter Restaurant.HUO YAN / CHINA DAILY

One man's incredible story shows the quake not only took away but also gave.

The earthquake took away Yang Yunqing's family members and his livelihood, but also gave him new ones. The disaster killed nine of Yang's relatives and his wife of 40 years. It also destroyed his two excavators, which he operated for a living in Sichuan province's Yingxiu town. Rather than mourn, Yang and his son rushed to a nearby power plant and pleaded on bent knees to borrow its excavators. They spent the following days using the vehicles to rescue 10 people trapped in the rubble.

Rather than return to his previous trade, Yang started Epicenter Restaurant, at first to feed rescuers and volunteers, and later to serve tourists who visit Yingxiu's quake ruins and the Cave of 10,000 Dead mass grave.

Yang started Epicenter Restaurant in the temporary prefabricated housing put up months after the quake and moved into something more permanent in March 2009. Diners eat under a canopy just across the canal from the ruins of Xuankou Middle School.

"Business boomed at first but hasn't been good since 2011 and actually started tapering off in 2009," Yang says.

"The town's population is only about 4,000. Fewer tourists come and more eateries have opened."

The diner served up to 30 tables a day at its peak but now serves about three. There were only a handful of restaurants when Yang relocated Epicenter Restaurant into a permanent building. He estimates there are now more than 100.

Also, the expressway that opened on the quake's first anniversary means traffic to Wenchuan no longer must pass through Yingxiu. So most Yingxiu visitors come for the day but do not stay overnight.

"We barely pay the bills," Yang says. "Festival crowds keep us going."

The 100-square-meter restaurant has only one indoor table. Yang rents outdoor space from a local tourism company.

The interior is decorated with photos of him rescuing quake victims. Several glass cases atop liquor cabinets hold signed helmets from Shanghai and Shandong firefighters. They are coated with dust.

"I named our restaurant Epicenter to remind people of Yingxiu's suffering and the help from outside," Yang says.

One of those he rescued with the firefighters was Jiang Yuhang, who had been buried for 124 hours.

Jiang became a firefighter.

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