Quake survivor Dong Shengya, 12, knows what she wants to do when she grows up.
"I want to build homes for people. I want to make sure all of us here live in safe, beautiful houses," said the pupil of Yingxiu Primary School, which was devastated by last year's May 12 quake in Sichuan province.
Dong's dream of better homes got closer to reality yesterday, when President Hu Jintao urged the authorities to complete reconstruction work in time.
Speaking at a ceremony in front of quake-hit Xuankou Middle School to mark the first anniversary of the disaster, Hu said priority "should be given to restoring basic living conditions and infrastructure and make sure people in quake-hit areas live in permanent homes as soon as possible".
The two schools are located in Yingxiu town of Wenchuan county, the epicenter of the 8.0-magnitude quake which left more than 87,000 dead or missing.
Hu, followed by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang and about 400 other mourners including foreign dignitaries, healthcare workers, residents and volunteers, yesterday expressed condolences to quake victims and to those who sacrificed their lives during relief efforts.
The president walked to an epitaph and led the group in placing a white chrysanthemum beneath the wall, accompanied by a bugle call to mark the mourning.
At the temporary site of Yingxiu Primary School nearby, about 1,000 other mourners, made up mostly of quake survivors and students, followed the ceremony on large screens and sang the national anthem together.
Hu also called for efforts to monitor and manage the use of reconstruction and relief work to ensure the quality of reconstruction projects, as well as to enhance measures to prevent and cope with disasters.
Similarly, mourners at the site yesterday looked beyond the quake and were heartened to see Yingxiu residents' resolve to move forward and build better lives.
Deng Lixin, an army major from the Chengdu Military Command, said the most impressive change in the town in the past year was not the reconstruction but the residents' renewed spirit.
"I was here on May 17 last year. It was an extremely tragic scene and the quake victims were hit hard physically and emotionally," said Deng, 37.
"But today I saw a hotpot restaurant named 'Enjoy Living' has opened near the entrance of the town, with several people enjoying their lunch there.
"Yingxiu seems to be fully prepared to start its new life."
For Yingxiu pupil Dong, whose family members also managed to escape unhurt in the quake and are now living in prefabricated housing, the future beckons.
"I know what the houses I am going to build will have," she said. "They will have very nice decorations."
Mourning in Beichuan
At the middle school in Beichuan county, which saw one of the highest casualties from the quake, more than 100,000 mourners from around the nation paid their respects to the dead.
Meters away from the collapsed school, where piles of joss sticks, paper money and other funereal offerings lay scattered, one father walked to the wire fence separating the crowds from the debris and placed a picture of his son with a written message.
"My dear son, one year has passed since you went to heaven how are you doing?"
In downtown Beichuan, 29-year-old Zhang Qiang knelt next to a collapsed apartment building. He said he was commemorating his young brother, who never got a chance to walk out of there.
"The May 12 quake is a thing of the past," he said as he laid flowers and lit candles and joss sticks at the site where his brother died.
"I'm back to tell my brother to enjoy his life in the other world.
"Tomorrow is a new start for all of us."
Source: China Daily