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Once an oasis - The tragedy of Dongqi School
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Meanwhile, barely one hundred yards to the south-east of the main building, at the other end of the school's basketball courts, stands the evidence for the defence.

A second school building, apparently identical in design and construction to the main building, is undamaged. It has suffered even less than the dormitory. Hardly a pane of glass is cracked – even the ceramic tiles on the façade are still in place.

The only visible difference between this building and the one that collapsed is its orientation. While the main building stood on a north-west/south-east axis, the secondary building is at right angles.

A second school building, apparently identical in construction and design, is virtually undamaged.

Wu Zhiqiang, Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tong Ji University and also an appointed general planner for resettlement strategy in the Chengdu quake-hit zone, has already suggested that the orientation of a building in relation to the direction of an earthquake's shock wave could impact on its ability to withstand the quake. (To know more about the story)

Could this be the reason why the secondary building of Dong Qi School survived, while the main building was destroyed?

In due course questions like these must be answered, and the parents who lost their children must be told the truth.

In the meantime, we make one last tour around the school before we leave.

There are cycles in the school bike shed – half-a-dozen of them. They lie untouched in the dust. Some of them are expensive. Surely a loving parent would have rescued as many of their child's belongings from the school as they could. Does this mean the parents died as well?

On a classroom wall hangs a sign of unbearable poignancy: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today".

One world, One Dream

In another classroom, the day's lesson is still on the blackboard. 'One World – One Dream' – the motto of The Olympics. Essays on One World to the left, One Dream to the right, and between them a set of beautifully-chalked drawings of the Olympic mascots – Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini.

We take one final look at the school's Honour Roll. Seventy-seven photos. Beautiful faces. Handsome faces. Plain faces. Smiling faces. Serious faces. Many of them must have been victims of the earthquake, but their faces still look down on the ruins of the school.

There will be no Honour Roll for 2007-08, only the sad toll of the dead.

Dongqi 2006-07 Roll of Honour

(China.org.cn June 11, 2008)

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