Zhong Guanghong can't remember the last time he saw such a huge throng of people mourn for the loss of a city resident.
Among the thousands of people who attended driver Wu Bin's memorial service on Tuesday, Zhong found that many souls felt the same as him and were touched by the heroism of Wu, who died after first protecting his passengers.
People bid farewell to Wu Bin, a bus driver who ignored fatal injuries caused by flying metal debris to make sure that 24 passengers he was transporting were safe. A memorial service was held for him at Hangzhou Funeral Home in Zhejiang province on Tuesday. Li Zhong / for China Daily
But Zhong still didn't expect so many residents to step out during the early morning of a working day to say a final farewell to the brave driver.
"Wu represents the highest level of morality, like a star sparkling in the galaxy above our heads," said Zhong, 67, an award-winning city volunteer in Hangzhou.
Bus driver Wu, 48, has been hailed across the country as a model of morality and has gained a number of heavyweight honors for his heroic deed last week.
On May 29, after he was struck and critically wounded by a flying metal fragment while driving his bus on a highway, he still managed to bring the bus to a halt on the roadside and make sure all 24 passengers escaped unharmed.
On Tuesday, his sister Wu Bingxin called him the pride of the family, and said the family will be encouraged by his spirit when going on with their lives.
"Although I lost a brother, 24 families were kept intact and a traffic accident that could have resulted in heavier casualties was avoided," the woman said in her address during Tuesday's service in Hangzhou Funeral Home. "With his life lost for the happiness of 24 or even more families, we thought it is the greatest thing he did at the last moment of his ordinary life."
Shao Zhanwei, mayor of Hangzhou, said Wu's spirit to risk his own life to save others should be widely promoted.
"The passing of Wu means we lose a good employee, colleague and brother and his family loses a model husband, father and son," he said in his address at Tuesday's service. "We mourn for the loss of a good comrade, meanwhile feeling extremely proud to have had such a model resident in Hangzhou."
His colleagues also recollected episodes involving Wu, an ordinary driver with the Hangzhou Long-distance Transport Group who they said fulfilled all the obligations of a bus driver for the past 10 years.
"He was an introverted man and was not good at social networking," said colleague Chen Yibo, calling Wu a responsible and kindhearted man.
He said he couldn't forget the attentiveness of Wu, who diligently carried out routine checks on vehicles each time they were driven.
"He didn't utter a word, until he made sure every tiny nut was tightly screwed."
Wu's strong endurance also came from his good driving habits and physical exercise, which allowed him to bear great pain during the unexpected disaster, families said.
Families and friends also recalled that Wu was one of the first to volunteer for relief work after a frost disaster in Hangzhou in 2008. "He faithfully completed his job."
A number of honors have been granted to the driver with the latest endorsement of the title of "revolutionary martyr" on Wu.
But bloggers had mixed reactions to the huge cash award, at least 500,000 yuan ($79,000), and a downtown apartment granted to Wu's family by the bus company and a government-backed foundation.
"Huge awards should be granted to heroes like him," said Hong Dama on Sina Weibo. "It's a positive signal to the public that we need warmth and devotion in this society, rather than indifference."
But another disagreed on Tuesday, saying that "material rewards make all the honors fade, and it makes me think of the numerous unknown heroes never granted honors or rewards".
Traffic police have called the incident a pure accident.
With the help of auto experts, police have determined that the 3.5-kilogram piece of metal causing the accident was part of a brake hub that fell off from another vehicle.
Promising a thorough investigation, police said they have checked about 20 videos recorded by surveillance cameras at toll stations, service areas and highways by Monday evening. Nine vehicles have a high possibility of being linked to the accident, while more than 3,000 autos have been screened, police said in a statement.
More police officers are being sent to other areas of the country for investigation.
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Zhang Jianming contributed to this story.