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Independent spirit a ray of hope

Updated: 2013-05-09 14:21
By Hu Yongqi (China Daily)

Independent spirit a ray of hope

April 20 was my deadline for finishing all the interviews for the fifth anniversary of the destructive Wenchuan earthquake that left more than 90,000 dead or missing in Sichuan province in 2008.

That morning, a magnitude-7 tremor struck Sichuan's Ya'an city, hitting Lushan and Baoxing counties especially hard. I had felt the strong tremors in the bathroom of a hotel in Dujiangyan and called China Daily's headquarters in Beijing immediately. But the lines were already down.

Grabbing some instant noodles and bread from a supermarket nearby, the photographer and I decided to rush to Lushan county.

After five hours stranded on the roads, we arrived in Lushan at about 6 pm. Fallen houses and long lines of people waiting to get food and water could be seen everywhere on the streets.

Zhu Ying, a mother of two children, was already digging even before the rescue-and-search teams got there. Her husband couldn't be contacted as all telecommunication signals had been cut off by the quake.

As the photographer and I went further into Longmen town, which had suffered the most damage, we saw some survivors sobbing for family members lost in the calamity. But they were still holding onto hope and started to do whatever they could to help.

"Homes were destroyed, but our hearts are not." That is the quote I will always remember from Longmen.

Within just one week, I had seen the reconstruction after the Wenchuan quake and the new rubble from devastated houses in Lushan, the epicenter of Ya'an earthquake. But one thread runs through these: No matter what was happening, there was a strong determination to restore their homes with their own hands.

In Lushan, survivors erected makeshift tents with plastic sheeting in the fields. Many drew from their stores of rice and pickles and generously offered to share their meager rations with rescuers and reporters.

On the first night, as there was no hot water for the instant noodles, some women from Qinglongchang village heated bottled water on their gas stoves and offered it to the soldiers who had arrived in the rescue teams. I got some, too. Instant noodles never tasted so delicious as they did that day after nine hours without food.

In the five villages I visited this time, residents held onto the strong belief in self-reliance that brought me back to Beichuan, a county badly damaged in the Wenchuan earthquake.

In the six days in Lushan county, I often heard the phrase: "It's good to be alive." But I more frequently heard many say: "It's good to make it on my own."

A signboard reading "Thank you, everyone, for coming to our aid" may be the last thing we noticed among the debris. But the independent spirit that was the beacon leading the rescue work could not go unnoticed.

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