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Late mother's day blessing: quake-flattened Beichuan wails on anniversary
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08:06, May 11, 2009

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To say "happy mother's day" to mom has become a mission-impossible luxury for 45-year-old Hu Qian.

On last year's mother's day which fell on May 11, Hu's husband reminded her to call and say hello to her mother but Hu thought of visiting her mother the next day and did not say any blessing to her mom.

Her mom, killed by a massive earthquake that rocked southwestern China's Sichuan Province a year ago, could not hear Hu's voice any more. Hu even could not find her mother's house as it had been wiped out by quake-triggered landslides.

"Mom, happy mother's day," Hu murmured when she mourned at the ruins of Beichuan with her sister.

The two came to the ruins of the quake-flattened Beichuan County in the early hours Sunday to send a regretful mother's day blessing.

The local government reopened old Beichuan County on Sunday afternoon one year after the 8-magnitude quake that killed more than 69,000 Chinese people and leaving nearly 18,000 missing.

The ruins of the county have been reopened four times after the quake. The previous three were at times of 100 days after the quake, spring festival in January and the tomb-sweeping festival on April 4.

More than 80 percent of the building in Beichuan collapsed during the quake and only 4,000 out of more than 10,000 living in the county seat escaped death, according to the local authority.

More than half of the county was covered by landslides and was "unnecessary to be reconstructed", so local government decided to transform this part into a "quake ruin museum."

On the cloudy Sunday afternoon, endless vehicles lined up on the road to Beichuan. Former Beichuan residents, with identification cards in hand, waited silently to be checked at the entrance of the former county.

Sound of firecrackers, as a way of mourning the dead, and women's cry, mixed in the devastated county.

Hu and her sister knelt down in front of a pile of stones to mourn their 64-year-old mother.

Waste papers of firecrackers, paper money, apples, oranges and loquats, as well as chrysanthemum and lilies were scattered on dilapidated walls and stones.

Crowds of people swarmed into the newly built roads leading to the old county seat, which situated between mountains and required at least half an hour to reach.

Han Guangying spent more than six hours to arrive here from her home in a remote mountainous village, only to "say something to my son".

Fifty-six-year-old Han did not know Sunday was the mother's day. His son had worked in a barbershop in Beichuan. Han and his husband only knew of his son's death a week after the quake due to telecommunications failure.

Han had a tearful face every day after his 30-year-old son's death.

Finally came to the day when the old county was reopened. The family had to scrimp and save to pay the traffic bill of nearly 200 yuan (29.4 U.S. dollars).

"No matter how much money the travel cost, we will definitely come here because my son is here," Han said.

After her son died, the daughter-in-law remarried and took the six-month grandson together with her. Han and her husband still lived on their small cornfield in the deep mountain.

The village government gave them 5,000 yuan to strengthen their house. During the first three months after the quake, each of Han's family could gain 300 yuan in monthly subsidies.

Han's fellow villager Wang Tianfen cried again when she learned that Sunday was the mother's day. "I want to tell my daughter, 'we did not give you enough love. We are greatly indebted to you,'" said 36-year-old Wang.

Wang's daughter Deng Xingqiong had studied in the Beichuan Middle School and had an excellent school record.

After Deng's death, the government gave the family nearly 70,000 yuan and an insurance company settled the claims of more than 4,000 yuan against Deng's sudden death.

Such amount of money was large enough for a poor family like Wang who mainly live on raising pigs and growing corn.

Dang Jiangbo, a 27-year-old sculpture teacher with the Mianyang Fine Arts Academy, was stopped by security guards at the entrance of the old county because he did not have a Beichuan identity card, which means he was not a Beichuan resident.

Dang begged a security guard and said although he did not have relatives or friends in Beichuan, he only wanted to burn some josssticks for quake victims. The guard of the ruins finally allowed him in.

Dang's home in Mianyang, 60 kilometers away from Beichuan, was also in danger when the quake rocked the region. "I can deeply fell the ruthless earthquake and vulnerability of lives although my family members did not suffer much from the disaster."

Old people who were not able to squeeze through the crowd into the county ruins, only overlooked the old Beichuan at a terrace from which they could see their hometown in the distance.

They burned joss sticks and choked with sobs at the terrace.

The overcast sky was getting clear when we were about to leave. Several vendor's stands along crowded roads at the county entrance were selling special local products such as dried beancurd, corn wine, walnut and preserved ham as well as embroidery of the Qiang ethnic group.


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