Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the Sichuan / Wenchuan Earthquake, an event that temporarily leveled a country’s spirit while simultaneously strengthening their resolve in the months leading up to the 2008 Olympics. All around the country today gatherings and memorials will be taking place to remember the victims of the tragedy and many news sources like this major north-Xinjiang newspaper have acknowledged the anniversary with huge front-page dedications.
I remember the week of the earthquake and how everything we did seemed to revolve around this small town of Wenchuan that up that point I had never heard of. A few people I know here in Xinjiang said they felt the quake every-so slightly, but the incredible distance between here and Sichuan leaves me doubtful. Personally, I was taking a nap when it hit. One blogger I know who lives in Xi’an recounted today how he thought the epicenter of the earthquake was right under his feet (Xi’an is close to 600km from the actual epicenter).
Three days following the earthquake all of China mourned, even out here in Xinjiang. These were my thoughts a year ago:
“The siren blared outside today. Horns honked. All cars stopped, business suspended. The normal sounds of peddlers, trash collectors, and street sweepers were gone. The time was 2:28pm and the noise marked one week since the devastating earthquake that rocked the very core of China.”
In that same article I wrote about how we accidentally joined a candlelight vigil, a scene that will be replayed all over China today:
“Tonight we attended a candlelight vigil. It was actually an accident that we were there – we had at first intended to go to the swimming pool tonight, but it, along with many other major businesses, has closed its doors for the next three days in remembrance of this tragedy.
Since the swimming pool had closed we went to the nearest attraction to hang out which happened to be the newly opened public park. While there we were witness to the gathering of thousands of Chinese people who brought flags, flowers, and signs as well as candles to light together.
Poems were read, the national anthem sung, and random cries of “中国加油！” were shouted and repeated (this phrase is roughly translated as a cheer similar to “Go team!” except here it’s “Go China!”). It was an honor to be a part of this gathering and even more special to see how people seemed to accept us as foreigners to join with them in their mourning.”
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