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The spirit of Wenchuan
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A whole year afterwards, it is not easy revisiting those dark moments associated with Wenchuan and May 12.

One year may be long enough for the most serious wounds to recover, but not for broken hearts.

Today, we remain with the hundreds of thousands of families bereaved, of their beloved ones and/or homes felled by that fatal devastation. The tragic losses were not only theirs. Nor are the memories theirs alone to bear.

Wenchuan, the epicenter of last year's cataclysmic earthquake in Southwest China, is etched in the nation's collective memory, not just for the magnitude of the pain inflicted, but also for the inexpressible feelings it aroused.

From across the falling rocks and the ruptured mountain through the rubble, we saw the intrepid and tireless rescuers, from the People's Liberation Army troops as well as domestic and overseas relief workers, at work.

From the danger-ridden and usually congested transport lines and temporary settlements, we saw volunteers from across the world bring to the victims the succor they needed.

From under the collapsed ceilings of classroom buildings, we heard the most heart-wrenching stories of courage and selflessness.

If the merciless tremor did any good, it awakened and reconnected this nation to some of its finest qualities and traditions.

We had seen ourselves increasingly disunited, like a dish of sand. Yet we found ourselves close to one another like never before in the face of nature's wrath. We had lamented about universal moral corruption and selfishness as an epidemic. Yet the ubiquitous presence of volunteers - there were millions of them - showed how wrong we had been.

We saw unlikely heroes and heroines in Wenchuan and far beyond. We saw the much-badmouthed post-80ers swarming to the forefront of disaster relief in defiance of warnings of danger. We will always remember with gratitude the beggar who donated all the money he had received in alms. We will never forget the brave teacher who, using his body as shelter, gave the hope of survival to his students

In those days, this nation was one of heroes and heroines. Actually each of us found the angel hidden in the depth of our hearts.

The force of nature reduced concrete buildings to debris. Yet the nation found its moral spine stronger. If there is anything we miss about those times, it is that.

There will be no lack of sweet words about the efficiency of rebuilding, nationwide mobilization, fine leadership, and everything today as we commemorate the first anniversary of Wenchuan.

Beyond the reconstruction work, however, there is the tougher job - to sustain the moral legacy of the Wenchuan episode.

And, that entails some fine examples to be emulated, including from the governments and their employees. In the first place, they should find ways for constructive dialogue with those they are supposed to serve.

(China Daily May 12, 2009)

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