Monday, May 11, 2009

Earthquake Anniversary

One year ago today, China suffered an unimaginable tragedy.

I remember May 12, 2008 clearly. Here is the post I wrote on my old blog one year ago:
Until I just read on the internet that the earthquake originated from Chengdu, I was sure that it had come from Xi'an or somewhere close to Xi'an in Shaanxi Province.

Jackie and I were in my apartment when we started hearing the closed windows banging like the wind outside was howling. A few seconds later my apartment building started swaying. Jackie and I ran to the bathroom of my apartment. I told her to stand in the door frame since I remember from early elementary school that that is the safest place to be in an building during an earthquake. My recently purchased coffee plunger in the kitchen fell off the counter and shattered. A few other things fell off my walls.

Things kind of calmed down but then started up again. We were walking around the apartment trying to find our shoes so we could go outside. At this time, it felt like walking on a cruise ship on a choppy sea. It wasn't like I was about to fall over, but I did kind of hold on to the walls to keep my bearings.

After the swaying had completely stopped, we walked down the five flights of stairs to the ground floor. I heard hordes of screaming children from the elementary school behind my apartment complex. The children's wailing made this descent down my stairwell a rather surreal experience.

Jackie and I went outside where a large group of people had already congregated. Everyone was frustratedly looking at their cell phones and trying to use them to no avail. The cell phone network had gone down. It was kind of strange to look at around at scores of people and not see anybody using a cell phone. In China in 2008, this is a rare site.

After fifteen minutes of standing around, we decided to go to the store to buy groceries for dinner tonight. Along our walk to the store there were people everywhere on the sidewalks. It appeared to me that the earthquake had turned into a makeshift siesta. People all seemed in good spirits as they demonstrated how they'd handled the tremors.
At that time, I really did not understand what had happened. I had never experienced an earthquake before. I was sure that the earthquake's epicenter had been in Xi'an. And seeing that everyone around me was OK, I didn't sense the death and destruction that had just occurred.

There had, in fact, been an unthinkable amount of horror.

From The Financial Times:

When the earthquake struck, Li Hong was sitting on the couch at home in the town of Beichuan, directly above the fault line.

Seven months pregnant with her second child, all she could think of was her six-year-old daughter in the town’s elementary school as the ground shook and she struggled to escape from her third-floor apartment.

Three days later, in hospital, she found an injured girl from her daughter’s class who escaped from the rubble of the school.

“I asked her if she had seen my daughter and she said the last time she saw her was when the earthquake struck and the children ran into the playground and my daughter was one step behind her,” Ms Li says, looking down at her nine-month-old son for comfort. “The girl said when she turned around, a hillside ­collapsed and buried the other children.”

One year after the devastating May 12 tremor that left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing, the affected areas of Sichuan are filled with such stories.

Read On
This disaster was a natural one. But the disaster has not been limited to the natural sphere. Click through on this FT article and read the whole thing and watch the video. Ugh.

Although this earthquake happened one year ago, it will continue to haunt people for years. If you are interested in donating money or getting involved with recovery in the affected areas, I suggest that you get in touch with the following charities: The Yellow River Soup Kitchen or The Library Project. Both of these organizations have done amazing things in earthquake affected areas and in western China in general.

One week to the minute after the earthquake happened at 2:28PM on May 19th, 2008, the entire country of China shut down for a few minutes to honor those lost in the previous week's earthquke. I happened to be in Xi'an's city center next to the Bell Tower when this happened. It was an incredibly moving experience.

Thankfully, someone standing a few feet away from me took a video while it was going on and posted it to YouKu. The video can be viewed here. Skip ahead to 4:00 into the video. It is intense.

The Sichuan earthquake's is going to be felt for generations.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...

Yes Mark - this was the most tragic of events. We felt nothing in Guangzhou and nobody realised that a disaster of such magnitude had happened until much later when the news started to come in. I remember May 19th 2008, very well - I was in the office and when the sirens started, it was as if Mother Earth itself was wailing.