REMEMBERING THE CITY THAT DIED IN ONE NIGHT
the next day,” the 65-year-old recalled, her memories not dimmed by the intervening years.
The sisters’ shopping expedition never materialized. At about 4 am, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake hit Tangshan. Gao’s father and sister were killed, while she and her mother were left paralyzed. Her two younger brothers were luckier, escaping with superficial injuries.
More than 240,000 of the city’s 1 million urban inhabitants died in the quake, regarded as one of the most destructive in history. In addition, 160,000 people were seriously injured — more than 3,800 were paralyzed— and more than 4,200 children were orphaned.
“My mother shook me awake when the quake occurred. My father ran toward the door, and I saw a concrete beam fall from the roof and hit him. I got up and ran to him, but I was hit by another falling beam. I was wedged between two of the beams, unable to move. I saw my father die,” she recalled, her voice choked with emotion.
“It was so dark. I heardmy brothers shouting my name, but I couldn’t move and I was too weak and in too much pain to respond.”
Gao was buried under the debris of the family home for about 10 hours untiloneof her brothers managed to free her.
A man mourns his mother, a victim of the earthquake, at a memorial park in Tangshan, Hebei province. Tangshan lies in ruins after the devastating earthquake in 1976. An earthquake monument stands at the edge of a pond in the rebuilt Tangshan.