Sichuan earth­quake sur­vivor aims high, stud­ies over­seas

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By HUANG ZHILING in Chengdu huangzhiling@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Li An­qiang, a 24-year-old grad­u­ate from Sichuan Univer­sity in Chengdu, Sichuan prov­ince, will fly to the United States next month to pur­sue his master’s de­gree in pub­lic man­age­ment at Rut­gers, The State Univer­sity of New Jer­sey.

In­stead of the typ­i­cal story of a young man from a rich Chi­nese fam­ily study­ing in the US, Li’s is one which may move peo­ple to tears and mo­ti­vate them to aim high.

Li, whose name means “safe and strong” in Chi­nese, comes from the moun­tain­ous eth­nic Qiang vil­lage in Xiaoba town, Be­ichuan county, Sichuan.

He lost his legs in the 8.0-mag­ni­tude Wenchuan earth­quake on May 12, 2008, which killed 69,226 peo­ple and left 17,923 missing. Trapped un­der rub­ble with a class­mate at Be­ichuan High School, the then teenage Li moved over to make room.

He was un­scathed as a re­sult of his act, but dur­ing af­ter­shocks, Li’s legs be­came buried and had to be am­pu­tated.

Wang Zhi­hang, a vol­un­teer in Chengdu who has shown con­cern for Li, re­called the first time she met him in a hospital in July, 2008.

Stand­ing 1.74 me­ters tall be­fore the quake, the teen then only reached 87cmwith­out his legs.

“With gauze cov­er­ing wound­son­his head, helooked pro­foundly sad and des­per­ate. No­body knew if he could sur­vive psy­cho­log­i­cally and no­body be­lieved he would study abroad one day,” Wang said.

Li’s fa­ther and 13-year-old sis­ter didn’t see him un­til eight days af­ter the quake be­cause they had to travel a long dis­tance from the moun­tains in Be­ichuan. With­out any rel­a­tive by his side, Li had to sign him­self into a hospital, agree­ing to have his legs am­pu­tated.

Af­ter the new school term started in pre­fab­ri­cated class­rooms that year, Li re­turned to his home county and proved to be a top stu­dent at Be­ichuanHigh School.

He was good at sports be­fore he lost his legs. Af­ter the quake, he played bas­ket­ball in his wheel­chair.

Learn­ing of his story, NBA star Kobe Bryant sent him a signed bas­ket­ball and said he was moved, hail­ing Li as a “strong boy whose at­ti­tude to­ward fate was amaz­ing”.

In the au­tumn of 2011, Li started stud­ies as an ac­count­ing ma­jor at Sichuan Univer­sity.

“At the be­gin­ning, room­mates would give me a help­ing hand. As time went by, they took my hand­i­cap for granted and I took care of my­self in­stead,” Li said.

As it takes time to don ar­ti­fi­cial legs, am­putees of­ten say they hate get­ting up at night to an­swer the call of na­ture.

“I have learned to don the ar­ti­fi­cial legs quickly, a lit­tle slower than putting on shoes, to be ex­act,” Li said.

Upon grad­u­a­tion from Sichuan Univer­sity last sum­mer, Li, who did not have a job, started pre­par­ing for the ex­ams he needed to sit to ap­ply for study in the US.

He hopes he can use the ad­vanced man­age­ment ex­per­tise he gains at Rut­gers in his work when he comes back to China.

“I plan to work in a govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tion or State-owned firm in China,” he said.

HUANG ZHILING / CHINA DAILY

Li An­qiang reads English news­pa­pers to fur­ther his un­der­stand­ing of the lan­guage.

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