Sichuan Earthquake: Mother Lost A Son In The 2008 Earthquake And Her Daughter In The Most Recent One

on April 22 2013 12:44 PM
Sichuan Earthquake
A man cries as he burns offerings in front of the body of his relative after Saturday's earthquake. Reuters/Stringer

Translated by Sophie Song

A Chinese mother lost her 23-year-old son, Lu Linxu, to the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. On Saturday, she lost her 17-year-old daughter, Yue Yushan, to yet another earthquake in Sichuan that has killed 184 so far, her last surviving child, according to Yangtse Evening News

The 6.6 magnitude quake struck in Lushan county, near the city of Ya'an in the southwestern province of Sichuan, close to where a devastating 7.9 quake hit in May 2008 killing 70,000. On Saturday night, Lushan County sat in darkness as the earthquake has disrupted the electric supply. The only light came from the emergency response vehicles that passed through on Yingbin Road, the town’s main thoroughfare. Residents of Ya'an, still shocked, began to settle down in tents to pass the first night after the earthquake.

Fifty-year-old Lu Jingkang could not sleep. She sat on the ground in a public square and cried in the darkness. A few neighbors sat near her and comforted her.

“You are your family’s pillar; you can’t collapse,” Lu’s neighbors said. Reminding the aggrieved of his or her responsibilities to the living is a common way of offering condolences in China.  

“I’m so ill-fated,” Lu, 50, cried repeatedly.

On May 12, 2008, during the last great earthquake, Lu was working in Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan. After the earthquake, she began telephoning home but couldn’t get through. She hopped on the bus and went home. Thankfully, when she got there, her family was fine, and the house was not damaged. She breathed a sigh of relief, but not for long. Her son was riding his motorcycle home from work when an especially severe aftershock knocked him down onto the sidewalk. His motorcycle bounced up and landed on his chest, crushing him.

Lu Jingkang couldn’t be persuaded to leave her son. Her son had only been married for a year and had a two-month-old daughter, Qingqing. “What’s Qingqing going to do without a father?” Lu cried, holding onto her son’s body.

In the five years that followed, she never quite got over the death of her son. She frequently dreamed that he had returned and said he missed his mother and daughter. 

Her daughter was her only comfort. The young woman felt sad for her mother and tried to support her emotionally. “There are too many tears at home, so I can’t cry.” Yue wrote in her diary.

“She was the sweetest girl,” her mother said. After school, Yue would rush home to make dinner for her family. She knew her mother liked eggplant, so she learned to make eggplants in different ways.

“She was a good student, ranked 14th in her class,” Lu Jingkang said of her daughter, who had one more year of high school left. “She wanted to go to a good university and become an English teacher.”

Yue’s goals would never be realized. On the morning of the quake, Lu Jingkang was minding her newspaper stand  when the ground began to shake. “Earthquake,” Lu ran to the house and shouted upstairs to her daughter and daughter-in-law.

Her daughter-in-law appeared in a second-floor window and jumped down. She landed feet first then collapsed on the ground; she was later taken to the hospital for a broken waist. It’s not certain whether she will live.

Lu Jingkang’s daughter never appeared. A few seconds after Lu shouted, the second floor of their house collapsed completely onto the first floor. A cloud of dust rose from the rubble and got into Lu’s eyes. She knew her daughter was gone.

Neighbors came over, and everyone tried to dig with bare hands for the girl, but aftershocks forced them to retreat. Many times Lu wanted to find her daughter, but neighbors stopped her.

It was 10 o’clock that morning when two police officers dug Lu’s daughter from the rubble. She was still wearing the white pajamas she slept in, but dirt had obscured her face.

“She liked to look pretty,” Lu Jingkang said. She wanted to dress her daughter in pretty clothes, but everything they owned was buried in the rubble.

The only thing Lu could do was to watch her daughter get taken to a hill behind their house, where her son was buried five years ago.

Just the night before, Yue had made dinner for her parents, which Lu said was delicious. “Mom, tomorrow is the weekend,” Yue said before bedtime. “Let me sleep in, OK?”

“Lazy child,” Lu Jingkang had said teasingly.

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