An in­domitable will to live

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By LUO WANGSHU Fam­ily

In July, I met Gao Zhi­hong, a re­mark­able woman who, de­spite great per­sonal suffering, con­sid­ers her­self to be a for­tu­nate per­son who just hap­pens to have had some un­for­tu­nate ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I was par­a­lyzed, but I sur­vived. It claimed so many lives,” the 65-year-old said. “It” was the 1976 Tang­shan earthquake — a mag­ni­tude 7.8 trem­blor that left more than 240,000 peo­ple dead and in­jured an es­ti­mated 164,000.

Al­though they were both par­a­lyzed, Gao and her hus­band, Yang Yu­fang, sur­vived, un­like many rel­a­tives and friends.

It has been a busy year for Gao and Yang. On July 28, the 40th an­niver­sary of the quake, they met with Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. The in­vi­ta­tion was ex­tended af­ter Yang sent Xi two books he had writ­ten — a col­lec­tion of his po­etry and a novel — based on his post-quake ex­pe­ri­ences.

The cou­ple also ac­cepted in­vi­ta­tions from lo­cal groups and the me­dia to en­cour­age peo­ple in dif­fi­culty by ex­plain­ing how they re­built their lives.

“We were in­vited to sev­eral uni­ver­si­ties in early Septem­ber, the start of the se­mes­ter, to read po­ems, share our ex­pe­ri­ences with stu­dents from low-in­come fam­i­lies and en­cour­age them to see the good things in life,” Gao said.

In late Novem­ber, the cou­ple ap­peared on a TV pro- gram called

in the east­ern prov­ince of Jiangsu and shared their ex­pe­ri­ences with the au­di­ence.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we don’t have cable TV, so we were un­able to see the show when it was broad­cast,” Gao said.

“We have pretty ful­fill­ing lives,” she said, adding that their only wish is to move into a larger apart­ment. Gao and Yang live in a 15-square-me­ter room with ba­sic fur­ni­ture: a queen-sized bed, a wardrobe, two wheel­chairs and two mo­tor­cy­cles adapted for dis­abled peo­ple. The tiny space is packed.

I met the cou­ple in July while re­search­ing a story about the 40th an­niver­sary of the quake. Be­fore I met them, I never imag­ined that peo­ple could be so serene af­ter their lives had been turned up­side down in a sin­gle night.

I have al­ways be­lieved that some trau­mas can­not be over­come, ir­re­spec­tive of space and time, but meet­ing Gao and Yang en­er­gized me and gave me a more pos­i­tive out­look. Now, I re­al­ize that the things I used to com­plain about in my life are just mi­nor ir­ri­tants.

Af­ter all, how can I be un­grate­ful for what I have when some peo­ple have ex­pe­ri­enced such hor­ror and still have noth­ing?

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