Today marks the seventh anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a 8.0-magnitude quake that struck a mountainous region of Sichuan province, destroying villages and killing at least 70,000 people in one of the most horrific tragedies in modern Chinese history.
The Chinese government’s broad and quick response to the disaster was largely praised both inside China and abroad. There has also been significant progress in relocating populations and rebuilding some villages in the hardest-hit areas around Wenchuan County, while also preserving devastated towns like Beichuan as a striking memorial to the dead. The Chinese press has been prohibited from reporting negatively on the tragedy, so the controversy surrounding the thousands of schoolchildren crushed or trapped under the rubble of their poorly built school buildings, as government structures sustained comparatively little damage, is not likely to be resolved soon.
But, even with massive renovations, its impossible to hide what’s been lost. In this photo series, via Sina, survivors were asked to look at photographs of themselves taken right after the earthquake hit and reflect on their lives then and their lives now. Some preferred not to remember and would rather just move on. While others confessed that they are haunted everyday by what they lost on May 12, 2008.
Li Fuyou’s 15-year-old son was in school when the earthquake struck, Li rushed there as soon as the quake hit, but when Li was finally able to pull his son from the rubble, he was completely unable to recognize his boy. “I haven’t been back to his school since then,” Li confesses. Now he doesn’t work, but just stay inside playing mahjong and drinking tea. He hopes that his son isn’t watching and worrying over him.
When the earthquake hit, both of Deng’s daughters were at school and were buried beneath the building.
A year the quake, she gave birth to another daughter. Deng never lets her daughter out of her sight for a moment. “I’m afraid she will be gone in the blink of an eye,” she says.
Li Fuge’s son was 15 in 2008 and like many other students he was buried underneath his middle school as it collapsed. Li says that he wants to tell his son: “Yong’er, you have a little sister now, she’s three years old. My Yong’er, if you were still alive, you’d be getting married.”
Jia Yiqin thinks that her daughter would also be getting married by now. In the past few years, Jia has had two miscarriages. Her doctors told her that her old age is a factor, but another factor is that she never stops thinking about dead daughter. She wishes she could tell her daughter that her father is taking time off work now: “Your dad is back. Your family is still here.”
Yao Ruoqun remembers that the earthquake killed 10 of her family members, including one of her sons. Her eldest son went to Yunnan to study and hasn’t returned. A year after the earthquake, Yao gave birth to a daughter and says that despite all the tragedy, the new child gives her family hope.
Without his daughter, Li Xue can only live one day at a time. Since the earthquake, Li has been working away from his hometown, sometimes he doesn’t even come back for Chinese New Year. But, at meal time, Li’s wife always leaves out an extra bowl and pair of chopsticks. Whenever the weather changes, Li thinks to himself, “I wonder if my daughter remembered to bring an umbrella or not.”
NetEase also republished some photos today from years past that compare how things in Wenchuan have changed since the earthquake struck seven years ago.
by Alex Linder
[Images via Sina & NetEase]