Survivors of Wenchuan earthquake commemorate 10 year anniversary

China 24

Survivors of Wenchuan earthquake commemorate 10 year anniversary

In 2008, nearly 70,000 people were killed in an earthquake in southwestern China’s Wenchuan County. Sorrow and pain still remain. But there are survivors who have moved on.

At the tenth anniversary of the disaster, CGTN’s Tao Yuan spoke to some of the survivors.

A symbol of every clock that stopped at the exact moment – 2:28. Tens of thousands of lives as well stopped on that fateful afternoon ten years ago.

Dai Guohong almost didn’t make it. Instead, he lost his legs.

“My school building collapsed right away,” Guohong recalls. “The floor underneath us cracked. My legs fell into the crack. The floor then closed. My legs were trapped. There were aftershocks. And the floor squeezed tighter and tighter. I passed out from the pain. And the next aftershock, another pain would wake me. I wished for the aftershocks to come stronger. I wished to die.”

When rescue teams finally pulled Guohong out two days later, he had two choices – either, he was going to lose his legs or his life. Prosthetics and wheelchair were what the future had in store.

But to the surprise of even himself, he found a second life in water – swimming at first to help with recovery, then going on to win nine national champions, and breaking a national record in 100 meter breaststroke.

“The whole time, I just wanted to prove myself, to prove that I can still do so many things without my legs,” he says.

Ten years on, Guohong says his wounds have healed, physically, and psychologically. He’s an example of the resilience of those who lost so much in the earthquake, but he doesn’t want to be seen that way.

“I’m naturally optimistic, but I don’t represent everyone,” Guohong says. “I think it wouldn’t be fair to think everyone is now okay. In fact, 90% of the people I know are still struggling to deal with the past.”

Psychologists would agree.

Chen Heqiong, another survivor, has counselled students over the past decade.

“Without professional help, I don’t think many people will be able to recover from a disaster of this scale,” Chen says.

Chen has her own scars. Ten years ago, she was buried under the rubble for three days without food or water. Since then, she’s been afraid of the dark. On every anniversary, she still feels pain remembering the friends she’s lost, but Chen has learned not to dwell on it.

“I think what’s important is to live in the moment,” Chen says. “That’s how you find yourself.”

Guohong and Chen count themselves lucky, because they were able to escape the shadow of the devastating disaster. But they admit many other people can’t. And they say what’s important for people in this region is learn to move on, even as the scars remain.

Xu Qinduo reflects on the Wenchuan earthquake, 10 years on

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke to Current Affairs Commentator Xu Qinduo on lessons learned from the Wenchuan earthquake.