One woman's memory of the Sichuan earthquake

By Chen Weisong and Li Jingrong
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 15, 2018
In these two photos from April 19, 2018, Zhou Yan drives a crane at a construction site in the Tianfu New Area, Chengdu, Sichuan province, while Ling Zhengjin, who is both Zhou's husband and coworker, speaks on a walkie-talkie. [Photo by Cheng Weisong/]

Zhou Yan was still an elementary school student on May 12, 2008, when a magnitude 8 earthquake occurred in her hometown in Wenchuan county in Sichuan province. 

Zhou and her younger sister were attending class at Caopo Primary School in the county that day. Unlike thousands of other buildings in southwest China, Zhou's school somehow avoided collapse. Zhou and all of her classmates survived the earthquake. But Zhou would soon learn that her parents and elder sister hadn't survived. 

Later, the two sisters were transferred to a residential home built specifically for children orphaned by the Sichuan earthquake, which is known in China as the Wenchuan earthquake. According to a press release on, the Wenchuan earthquake left 5,335 students dead and missing.

Six years ago, Zhou left the orphanage to work as a crane driver in an engineering company.

"I used to be afraid of heights, and working as a crane driver high above the ground made me upset and uncomfortable, but gradually I have gotten used to the job and I am not afraid of it anymore," said Zhou.

Zhou now has two sons with her husband, who is also a crane worker in the same company.

"It was a heartbreaking event. I was once unable to extricate myself from the grief of my parents' death in the Wenchuan earthquake. My grandparents were heartbroken, too, so I had to learn to become strong. Otherwise, who would take care of my grandparents?"

Zhou said that she learned a lot from her teachers in the orphanage. "They taught me basic life skills, including self-protection and one's responsibilities to the family," she said, adding, "I don't want to be in a state of depression forever, and I hope that everyone can be happy and optimistic every day."

Statistics from China's State Council Information Office show that the death toll from the Sichuan earthquake was 69,227, and the numbers of people listed as missing and injured were 17,923 and 374,643, respectively.

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