Fang Dongming said Sunday the field in front of his house has been packed like this only once before. But the last time so many people were there was on May 12 when the devastating earthquake hit Sichuan province.
First torchbearer Jiang Min, a national model for her devotion to the quake-relief work, runs with the torch during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Guang'an City, southwest China's Sichuan Province, August 3, 2008. [Xinhua]
Fang is a resident of Guang'an, the first city in Sichuan to host the Olympic torch relay.
"On May 12 we all ran out on the open field to escape from the quake our buildings were shaking like trees in a very strong wind. We were all panicky," Fang said after the torch relay concluded in the city.
"The field in front of our apartment building was among the vantage points from where people could cheer the torchbearers. We simply couldn't miss it."
"I'm grateful our city didn't suffer a lot from the quake. But I know how hard it is for those who bore the brunt of the disaster like some of my relatives," he said.
"But we have to look ahead. I'm glad to see so many people out here to cheer the torchbearers. It is a sign that we're getting over it."
The Olympic torch set out on its journey in Guang'an, the birthplace of Deng Xiaoping, from in front of the exhibition hall that showcases the late Chinese leader's life. Deng was one of the first leaders to speak of Beijing hosting the Games.
People pay a silent tribute to the victims of the May 12 earthquake hitting southwest and northwest China before the start of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games torch relay in Guang'an City, southwest China's Sichuan Province, August 3, 2008. [Xinhua]
The torchbearers and residents observed a minute's silence to mourn the victims of the quake before Jiang Min started the torch relay. A policewoman, Jiang worked tirelessly to help the quake victims despite having lost 10 of her own relatives.
Torchbearer Stremlau Thorsten, an IT engineer from Lenovo's Germany office, said he wanted to but could not visit some of the worst hit areas in Sichuan for lack of time. "But I'm sure they will soon rebuild their homes and have a better future I've seen the courage and unity of the victims and the rest of the country over the past few months."
The Olympic torch will resume its Sichuan journey this morning in Leshan, home to the Ermei Mountain and the 71-m-tall Maitreya Buddha, carved from a cliff.
It will proceed to two of the hardest hit quake cities, Mianyang and Guanghan, in the afternoon before traveling to Chengdu, the provincial capital tomorrow.
The Sichuan leg of the torch relay had to be postponed in May because of the earthquake.