Note: I am unable to upload blog posts myself as I am not able use VPN and hence I cannot go on wordpress due to the restrictions on website access in China…My mum will be uploading for me these 2 months.
On Saturday 18th, I visited the Beichuan earthquake site. Some of you may remember the news headlines back in 2008 when the earthquake hit on may 12th in the Sichuan providence. This earthquake, also known as the ‘great Sichuan earthquake’ is one of the deadliest earthquakes to hit China and on an international scale it remains an immensely terrible natural disaster.
Beichuan, is a rural town in China and the scene of one of the worst natural disasters in modern history. Unlike the nearby affected areas that were re-built completely from scratch, the Beichuan district was kept in the ruined condition and today it is a memorial and tourist site for visitors to witness the physical damage. It was hit harder than any other town in the affected area- 80% of the city was destroyed and over half the population perished.
Although I had seen footage and photos of this earthquake, it was only after I was physically standing a midst one of the ruined areas that the extent of the damage and ramifications became a living reality. The morning of our visit to the site was extremely foggy and the grey blanket that was the sky casted a gloomy and desolate ambiance. Once in the collapsed town, the absolute calm and quietness ringed loudly. Everything was strangely peaceful but everywhere I looked I saw suffering and utter destruction.
One particular aspect that really struck a nerve for me was the schools that were completely destroyed by the shake. All that remained in tact were a basketball hoop in the playground and a Chinese flag on a pole. Piles of concrete, bricks and dust loomed heavily on the school site. What I, and many people are outraged by is that many lives could have been saved if it wasn’t for the poorly constructed buildings. Young children and teens faced an inescapable fate that stripped them of their lives much too soon.
The truth is, when such powerful and deadly events happen, for those who only hear about the details through the TV, radio and Internet cannot fully comprehend the long-term consequences of such monstrosities. We hear the breaking news and usually a few weeks after the event, the talk and the details gradually wear away. But the pain and the severe aftermath remains very much a living nightmare for those who are directly affected long after the initial event. The suffering is beyond words and physical representations.
I hope this rather depressing experience I have shared holds some light. Today, I saw how vulnerable humanity is against the strength of mother- nature. I have always been a believer of fate and that God is infinitely greater and more powerful than human beings. While in no way am I claiming that this tragic disaster happened for the better, I do believe that it should serve as a testament to how short and precious living is and encourage us all to appreciate the little things in our daily lives. At the end of it all, we really have very little control over our lives. In a matter of seconds thousands upon thousands of lives can be prematurely taken away. Standing towns can be degraded into ruins within seconds.
May all the victims rest peacefully in a better place as my thoughts and prayers are with them five years after that terrible day.