In the Aftermath of an Earthquake…

Waves, it strikes me, are a bit like news stories. Most of them crest and crash upon the beach in anonymity, leaving no impression whatsoever. The bigger among them may draw attention, and when they beat their inevitable retreat under the folds of the next curtain of bubbling seawater, they may take bits of our sandcastles with them. But even they fade from memory, replaced by the next rushing torrent within moments. If we lived in the sandcastle, we might remember them. But sitting outside on the beach, we forget. So it is, too, with news stories.

The Yushu earthquake stories have faded, now, replaced by newer stories in the news cycle. For those of us — probably everyone reading this — who don’t live in Yushu, its impression is probably already fading too. It’s as regrettable as it is inevitable — we must live our own lives, after all — and it’s exactly the reason why I hate headlines like the one pictured to below: “Today, we are all people of Yushu.”

I hate these headlines because for most people, they’re simply not true. How can we all be “people of Yushu” for a single day? Their ordeal has lasted weeks, and is not near over. We may have grown tired of writing about it, but the roots of tragedy are woven thick throughout the rubble in Qinghai.

We wrote before about the children who were killed in the quake. Weeks later, investigative journalist Wang Keqin is writing about the children who survived. Predictably, their stories are tragic.

This is five-year-old Zhuo Maqiong, a good tempered little kid who was admitted to the Qinghai Women and Children’s Hosptial on April 15th with a fractured thighbone, among other injuries. She still can’t walk, but likes to draw drawings with markers for the reporters who visit. Her parents — both father and mother — remain missing. She had been living with her father and grandfather (her parents were divorced) and her grandfather was killed when their house collapsed, but there is still no word from either of her parents. Many people from all over the country have called to offer to raise her as a foster child, but the hospital is waiting to make that decision after her injuries are healed.

This is five-month-old Little Bumao. Bumao had gotten sick, and the earthquake happened while the family was staying with relatives in a relatively remote village. Their house collapsed, and when rescuers got there, they found her trapped under the rubble, crying in her mother’s lifeless embrace. The fate of her father, and the relatives they were staying with, is still unknown.

This is eleven-year-old Yongcuo Gamao ((This is clearly a Tibetan name but I have no idea how to romanize it correctly. Here are the Chinese characters used for her name: 永措尕毛)) . She and her sister were trapped under a collapsing house while on their way to school. An old man happening by rescued her, but couldn’t get her little sister out. Yongcuo Gamao was severely injured, and still can’t even get out of bed. She has no father, but her mother, grandmother, and little brother are all alive. However, she has not been able to see them, as they are too poor to afford a trip to her hospital. She has recieved donations, and hopes her family will be able to visit soon. She was also given a backpack with some toys and Tibetan books inside, which she clutches tightly to her chest. “She loves it so much,” said a volunteer. “She’s never seen a gift this nice before.”

We all may have been people of Yushu for a day, but these girls will be people of Yushu their entire lives. While we will and must move on, let us try to keep our memory of this earthquake and its victims — the dead and the living — fresh, and not let it fade into anonymity like waves crashing on a sandy beach fade into white noise.

New on ChinaGeeks

ChinaGeeks Chinese translates a piece — and comments — from Foreign Policy: 亚洲是否会牵制崛起的中国?

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