Hope springs eternal in the hearts of quake victims
Updated: 2013-04-27 01:57
By Zhao Lei (China Daily)
Wait and hope. These two words deeply impressed me 14 years ago when I first read Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. I was in my fifth year at high school and had never witnessed any disasters or tragedies.
In the following years, I witnessed the SARS outbreak in 2003 that swept Beijing where I grew up, the devastating earthquake in 2008 that claimed nearly 90,000 lives in Sichuan province, and the catastrophic mudslide in 2010 that almost erased a county in northwestern China, but I had never imagined that one day I would be standing in the center of a disaster assuming the responsibility of telling my readers what had happened and is happening in the epicenter of the April 20 earthquake in Lushan, Sichuan.
Now seven days have passed and I have interviewed volunteers, NGO workers, officers and soldiers of the People's Liberation Army in Longmen township of Lushan county, which was worst hit by the earthquake. I saw them sweat while carrying food and bottled water for local people living in shelters. I followed them to remote, muddy villages on the mountain to offer medical care and psychological comfort. I was moved by those residents who suffered in the earthquake but who never complained and even made food for volunteers and reporters they did not know.
Near the shabby tent in which we, four reporters from China Daily, stay, three women and two boys from a big family would be busy boiling water from as early as 7 am to late at night every day since the earthquake. They have done this because they realized many people have to eat instant noodles but could not get hot water.
They would not accept my request for an interview because "it's no big deal and you should write a story about those kindhearted people and the PLA soldiers who came to help us".
Responding to my question about whether they felt sad about their losses, one of the boys said: "Yes we are sad, but we still have hope."
Then he ran away to chase another two boys who kept teasing him as he answered my questions.
The boys' cheerful laughter reverberated around the yard as many medical workers and volunteers came to the family's tent to take hot water.
For most children, sadness is not in their character.
In a big tent on the playground of the Chenyang Hope School in Longmen, I attended an English lesson on Wednesday, the first day the school resumed classes for third-grade students who are due to sit an important exam.
Boys were naughty as usual. They chatted and threw things at each other.
Some curiously looked at me and discussed who I was.
Through their eyes, I could see energy and a strength of will that seemed to defy all the challenges they faced.
Yuan Leiyi, 15, told me she was happy that the school resumed its classes because "staying at home is quite boring, but at school I can play with my classmates".
During the English lesson, I noticed a little girl standing outside the curtain of the tent, staring at the teacher.
She walked away after finding I had photographed her.
I followed her outside the tent and continued to take pictures of her. As she laughed and tried to dodge my camera, the disaster appeared to have no effect on her.
A few meters away from her, some little children were playing as their parents or grandparents were looking at them and smiling.
"Wait and hope," I said to myself, with warmth surging in my heart.