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Memories and tears on quake anniversary

By HUANG ZHILING  (China Daily)

08:22, May 13, 2013

People pay tribute to victims of the 2008 earthquake in Yingxiu, Sichuan province, on Sunday, the fifth anniversary of the magnitude-8 earthquake in which more than 80,000 people were killed or missing. Photo by Bai Yu / Xinhua

As she looked at the short message for Mother's Day from her son Teng Dengfeng, Yao Denghui broke into tears.

The message read: "Wish mum a pleasant Mother's Day, good health and youth forever."

The 55-year-old Tujia ethnic woman from Hubei province said, "I have read it many times over the past five years."

At the time, she was cleaning the tombstone of her son in the cemetery designated for the May 12 earthquake victims of Yingxiu, Wenchuan county, Sichuan province, on Sunday, a day that marked the fifth anniversary of the quake.

Together with four soldiers from the same squad, Teng perished in the magnitude-8 earthquake in which 87,149 people were killed or missing.

"My youngest son and his four comrades-in-arms were buried by landslides while trying to save workers in the Yingxiu Power Plant. Before they were killed they had saved 25 workers. The five soldiers' bodies have never been found. The tombs are only cenotaphs, not graves," said Yao who has a 30-year-old daughter.

A native of Xianfeng county, Hubei, she rode a train from a railway station in neighboring Qianjiang district in Chongqing municipality on Friday.

After a nine-hour ride, she arrived in Chengdu, Sichuan, at 2:50 am on Saturday. She then took a bus journey lasting two hours to Yingxiu in the afternoon.

"Since 2009, I have visited the cemetery every May 12. Each trip to the cemetery and back home takes about a week. But we will come every year as long as we can walk," said Yao, wiping away her tears.

Jiang Junzhou, who was 22, was one of the four soldiers who perished with Teng.

His mother Leng Zhiyuan, 50, a farmer from Dashi village in Luxian county, Sichuan, put an apple and a cup of liquor on the memorial.

On Saturday morning, Leng took a long-distance bus journey lasting six hours from Luxian to Yingxiu.

"Since my only son's death, I have changed greatly physically. I am so sorrowful that I cannot eat much and have stomach pains. But I have taken the laborious trip to the cemetery each Tomb-Sweeping Day (in early April) and on May 12," Leng said.

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