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Day of reflection: One year after Sichuan earthquake, signs of recovery and hope in China

Mara Warwick's picture

We have heard stories of tragedy since the Sichuan - Wenchuan Earthquake, but we have also seen the signs of recovery and hope.
Today is a day of reflection in China. The Sichuan - Wenchuan earthquake on May 12, 2008, was an event of immense significance for the people of China. It was one of those events that occur maybe once in a generation, where for many years to come, much discussion will center on the question "where were you when you heard the news?"

Today is also a day of reflection for me. I am thinking about all of the people we have met in Sichuan over the last year who have been affected by the earthquake – the millions who have lost their homes, their land and their livelihood. I am also thinking about the many, many people who have lost loved ones – their children, parents, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers and friends. I have met and spoken with some of these survivors over the last year and they are in my mind today.

I have been thinking about a young woman – a government official we met just six weeks after the quake – who lost her daughter. I am also thinking about a man who told us how he had dug himself out of the rubble with his own hands two days after the quake and who had returned to work immediately to help his community start rebuilding. I am thinking about an old lady who had saved her 7-month-old grandson from high up in an apartment building, but who said she would never enter a building with stairs again because it reminded her too vividly of that day. And most of all, I am thinking about all the people in Sichuan who are working day and night to help these people rebuild their lives. I have immense admiration for their dedication and sense of purpose.

In June 2008, I didn't recognize what I saw as being China, but now I do, because now I see the resilience of the Chinese people and I see hope returning.
We have heard many stories of tragedy during the last year. But we have also seen the signs of recovery and hope. When we drive in the earthquake area today, we see people at work building new houses. We see hospitals and schools providing education and healthcare in temporary facilities. We see children playing jump rope, mothers and babies sitting together in the sun, and old men playing mahjong with fierce concentration. Food is available in market stalls, and banks and barber shops have mushroomed everywhere. Whereas 11 months ago, when I first visited the area, I saw people sitting aimlessly in tents, now I see a vibrant community being restored. In June 2008, I didn't recognize what I saw as being China, but now I do, because now I see the resilience of the Chinese people and I see hope returning.

Today, the Chinese Government has declared May 12 as "Disaster Prevention and Reduction Day". This is a great step to raise awareness in China of the continued dangers that the country faces from natural disasters and to educate the Chinese people that the reduction and prevention of future disasters is equally important as rebuilding. I am very optimistic that the tragedy of the Wenchuan Earthquake will become a turning point for China to move toward a more resilient future.

Editor's note: See more posts on the Sichuan - Wenchuan earthquake here.

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