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Two birthdays for joy and sorrow

Updated: 2013-05-09 13:44
By Chen Jia (China Daily)

Two birthdays for joy and sorrow

I have two birthdays - one is the date celebrating my birth, and the other is May 12, in remembrance of the day I didn't die in the deadly magnitude-8 earthquake that devastated Sichuan province in 2008.

Imagine your worst nightmare. Mine came true when so many beautiful lives were lost in the catastrophe.

Five years later, I take the opportunity to think about my own good luck and remind myself that I was among the fortunate souls when the temblor happened at 2:28 pm that day.

I was among a group of 45 people in several vehicles returning to Sichuan's capital Chengdu after an interview for a panda adoption story at Wolong Nature Reserve. At least 20 of our group members died. Some have never been found.

Our minivan had just crossed the Baihua bridge, very close to the epicenter, when - without warning - downpours of rocks instantly flipped it upside down.

I was among seven journalists and one person from a PR company pinned in the vehicle's twisted metal.

My head was upside down, firmly locked between the backseat and our backpacks. Boulder after boulder thwacked the minivan, shoving it along the road.

Darkness, panic, pain, dehydration and a lack of oxygen were the least of our problems as we started the longest wait of our lives.

Fortunately, several locals saved us before sunset. But we spent the following three days stranded on the mountainside, assaulted by aftershocks and mudslides.

We had no shelter or medicine. We shared limited water and fruit.

It became obvious waiting for help wasn't a good idea. We were in an isolated area, and immediate rescue efforts would be focused on urban settlements.

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