Qiu Xianyun did not know about his son Qiu Guanghua's death till yesterday, the day the wreckage of his helicopter was found on a mountain near Yingxiu town in Sichuan province.
Captain Qiu Guanghua, 51, was leading a five-member rescue team and carrying 13 injured quake survivors in his chopper to Chengdu when it crashed on May 31.
But Qiu Senior still talked about his son with utmost pride: "My son is a pilot in the army. He is part of the quake rescue and relief team."
The 80-year-old used to be the head of his village in Maoxian county, one of the hardest-hit areas by the quake.
"We should work hard to rebuild our homes instead of relying on the government for everything," he said.
But how come he did not know his son's fate when the entire country was mourning the death of the hero?
The May 12 quake has cut electricity supply to the county, especially to his village, making it impossible for him to hear the news on TV or radio. And the rest of the village has decided not to shock the octogenarian with the sad news for now.
Qiu Guanghua's seven younger sisters and brothers are also keeping the devastating news from their parents.
"They are old and weak and I don't know what will happen when we ultimately tell them about it," sister Qiu Guangxiu said.
She said her eldest brother was the backbone of the family. "We are poor. He used to give money even for our children's education."
After the May 12 quake, Qiu Guanghua, who was to retire in 11 months, volunteered to fly on the rescue and relief missions.
He and his colleagues worked eight to 12 hours a day, carrying rescue teams and ferrying survivors for medical treatment. He did not visit his home even once.
One of his brothers happened to pick a tent airdropped by Qiu Guanghua's copter. After coming to know about it, Qiu Guanghua phoned and asked him to hand it over to the local relief center so that someone more in need could use it.
(China Daily June 11, 2008)