A special group in orange outfits with "China Rescue" written across the back of their shirts caught the attention of TV viewers.
The national rescue team went about their search and rescue task during the earthquake calmly and efficiently, raising the hopes of a devastated people.
Liu Xiangyang, deputy chief of the China International Search and Rescue Team (CISRT), spoke to China Daily of his experiences.
"Among the 10 rescue missions I have been involved in, both at home and abroad, the Wenchuan quake was the most difficult many team members, including myself, were unable to control our tears.
"I cannot adequately express the feeling," Liu, 39, said.
He has been engaged in rescue work for 15 years and has won high praise from officials of the United Nations when carrying out missions abroad.
At 4:30 pm on May 12, two hours after the quake struck, the rescue team was alerted. The 187-member team left for Sichuan within 15 minutes.
After arriving at Dujiangyan at 00:50 on May 13, Liu, leading a 40-member group, saved three people trapped in a collapsed hospital.
Later, a local official arrived to inform them of pupils buried under a nearby primary school.
Liu was shocked at the sight of the collapsed school.
"Little bodies were scattered about, and cries for help could be heard from deep inside the ruins More than 100 kids were trapped.
"After years of professional training, I learnt how to control my emotions. However, as a father of a 12-year-old girl, when I saw a young pioneer badge worn by a dead girl, which is exactly the same as my daughter's, I couldn't control the tears," Liu said.
He made a quick decision, leave part of his team at the hospital and send the rest to the school.
Liu was the first to go into the ruins in search of the children, and draw up rescue plans.
"I had to go in first to inject confidence into my team," he said.
During the first three days, Liu had no sleep and survived only on biscuits.
From May 12 to 29, the CISRT worked for 216 hours at 48 sites.
The team rescued 61 people; helped locate 36 others, and removed 1,036 bodies, Liu said.
"I will always remember the sad scenes," he said.
" But this the work I have chosen to do, and I will continue to do it to the best of my ability."
(China Daily June 17, 2008)