Thursday, May 15, 2008

Pulse of a Nation

[tracking the disaster and rescue]
"There was an earthquake" she said, "I'm feeling dizzy." We were talking on the MSN. She's in Northern China.

We joked about it.

Only to be shocked by the headline on New York Times when I woke up the next morning. CNN, BBC news, Washington post, I began to check on all kinds of English language news. The numbers of casualties were all over the place. But the information was sporadic. Before long, clutchfans, a bbs I visit regularly, has a thread running about the updates. Someone then pointed me to Shanghaiist. Shanghaiist? Is that even a correct word? I've always thought people from Shanghai were called Shanghainese. Or was that Shanghainite? But the folks there did a really good job of updating the situation in the confusing hours until..until they were too dead tired to do so.

Numbers continued to rise. Hundreds, thousands, 7000, close to 10,000, more than 20,000...Numbers were cold, it numbed you after a while. The early pictures and videos though, many of which were taken by ordinary people in the affected region, helped putting on a human face.

I could then understand why 24 hour cable news could have markets. Trying to find out the fate of people could be addictive. My appetite for coverage couldn't be satisfied by the English-language news no more. I began to search out Chinese sources.

[Finest moments]
Chinese websites responded very quickly. The culture of bbs came in handy also. Citizen reporters on sites delivered painful details or heartwarming stories to supplement the reporting from official media, which was very open and responsive this time.

I wandered to baidu postbar and tianya, the usually raucous places. People were mostly discussing the news and how to help. Some set up online vigils to pray for the victims. Still, some were arguing vehemently, but mostly because they were so stressed by the tragedy and were thinking out loud how to better. What happened in Sichuan grabbed everybody's mind.

BY this time, Shanghaiist had relayed the news that Red Cross China opened a call for donation. But the website was down when I tried to get on. It was overwhelmed by millions of people trying to get there. Thankfully it went back up later, for a while. (I later learned you can directly donate through Red Cross Hong Kong also. )

(On Tianya, the age-old Chinese attitude toward the riches were on display also, as many people hold donating in proportion to their ability as the moral responsibility of the new riches.)

The calamity was sickening. The outpouring of support was touching. The blood banks all over the country were filled in a day after the call for blood drive. There were these rescuers who walked 90 kms on foot overnight in order to reach the epicenter. There was that 13 year old boy who dig 4 hours by hand to save his classmates. There was these student who was trapped inside the collapsed structure, encouraging each other and singing under the debris to keep the hope of life. Every passing of ambulances brought loud cheers because that meant another life was saved.

My co-blogger helped packed her friend's truck with food and supplies. Her friends was to drive all the way down to the disaster area and volunteer there.

So I leave myself with this question: can we actually find encouragement and solace during such natural disaster? I believe we can. Cuddling together, Chinese people show they are strong and resilient in face of calamity. They show they care for one another, as a nation, more than ever. They show they are capable. The rescue and relief effort, like any human endeavor, is not going to be perfect, and grief will forever be etched in our heart. But this is also China's finest moment, and can potentially be the defining moment, as a modern nation.

some quotes:
All I want to say is: your livelihood are from people; so you decide (what to do). --PM Wenjiabao to rescuers and soldiers about to begin effort

Please, I'm begging you, let me go to save another, I can save one more.
-- A firefighter upon being ordered to temporary withdraw during the after-shock

Please spare my legs (from amputation), I will need them to take care of my parents when I grow up -- A rescued pupil before going to the surgery

I was very cold and hungry. I had to keep on reading to relieve my fear
-- A rescued school girl describing her 40 hours in debris with her book and flashlight

There is no Beichuan county any more
-- A member of Red Cross assessment team

Related Content of This Rocking Post


  1. Rocking细心周到并且善于思考,感性脆弱的一面就由偶来。

  2. 抢救人员发现她的时候,她已经死了,是被垮塌下来的房子压死的,透过那一堆废墟的的间隙可以看到她死亡的姿势,双膝跪著,整个上身向前匍匐著,双手扶著地支撑著身体,有些象古人行跪拜礼,只是身体被压的变形了,看上去有些诡异。救援人员从废墟的空隙伸手进去确认了她已经死亡,又在冲著废墟喊了几声,用撬棍在在砖头上敲了几下,里面没有任何回应。当人群走到下一个建筑物的时候,救援队长忽然往回跑,边跑变喊“快过来”。他又来到她的尸体前,费力的把手伸进女人的身子底下摸索,他摸了几下高声的喊“有人,有个孩子 ,还活著”。
       经过一番努力,人们小心的把挡著她的废墟清理开,在她的身体下面躺著她的孩子,包在一个红色带黄花的小被子里,大概有3、4个月大,因为母亲身体庇护著,他毫发未伤,抱出来的时候,他还安静的睡著,他熟睡的脸让所有在场的人感到很温暖。 随行的医生过来解开被子准备做些检查,发现有一部手机塞在被子里,医生下意识的看了下手机屏幕,发现屏幕上是一条已经写好的短信“亲爱的宝贝,如果你能活著,一定要记住我爱你”,看惯了生离死别的医生却在这一刻落泪了,手机传递著,每个看到短信的人都落泪了

  3. Damn, you made me cry again!

  4. Yes, I've been tearing up so often too.

    Singaporeans are doing their part in helping. Some local news here:

    If you read the second article, there is a quotation from Ho Kwon Ping, chairman of MediaCorp which goes like this:

    "If you define good governance as a government that can take care of its people in an emergency, I think China has certainly demonstrated it this time."

    "I think they have demonstrated not only in terms their ability to mobilise resources, but I think they have also taken advantage of this to have the top leadership bond with the people,"

    I agree with the last statement of this blog entry, this can indeed be a watershed moment for China in many areas.

  5. Re-posting links.

  6. byte_me, thanks for posting the link