Farmers Laboring In the Rubble
After interviewing on the front lines for more than 10 days, I’ve seen too much tragedy, I’ve witnessed too many touched moments, I’ve seen too many shocking pictures. But there is one more thing that has really moved me with an indescribable sense of sadness mixed with pride: the farmers I saw laboring in the rubble of their destroyed homes (in Pengzhou).
I saw: in the yard of a farmer’s home now reduced to brick and gravel, a country girl digging out a dressing table with a shattered mirror. She put it on her back, and began carrying it to her distant tent.
I saw: in front of a small building smashed in by mudslide, a middle-aged man dragging out bag after bag of grains from the refuse. He carefully held up those shiny kernels of grain and corn, as if he was carefully studying the fortunate son that had survived this disaster.
I saw: in the delapidated remains of an antiquated home, an old person stood in a rough pile of roofing-grass, holding up the markers commemorating his ancestors. He carefully and devotedly raised these markers, as if he was supporting his long-departed mother and father.
I saw: in the remaining half of a concrete building, a child digging through a pile of brick. He found his dust-covered panda toy and cradled it in his arms. He whispered to it: “Don’t be afraid, everything will be fine.”
I saw: in a patch of bamboo forest, a young farmer repairing the smashed exterior of his tractor. In the near future, he will be driving it towards the wide spaces behind him; on this pock-marked earth, he would harvest the fruits of his farm labor.
I saw: in an already split washing platform, a woman washing the cotton quilt she had dug out from the dirt pile. That flowery quilt contains so many of her warmest and most intimate memories.
I saw: in a small vegetable garden, a middle-aged couple weeding. Not too far behind them was the pile of rubble that used to be their home. In the distance, dirt thrown up by the demolition process was the tragic background for their work.
I also saw an old grandmother wearing a silk bandanna on her head, carefully feeding slop she had cooked into the mouths of the piglets at her feet. Those little lives had just survived the terror of this disaster, and along with our hopes, they will grow day by day.
I watched until my eyes grew tired, and my camera ran low on batteries. But on the road in front of me stretched a horizon full of destroyed homes, and uncountable number of farmers labored on.
Their eyes reflected determination or sadness, but there was no sign of hopelessness.
Their cheeks were sucked in, and their sweat and muscles shone under the bright sunlight in a way that made our hearts pulse faster.
So, these were the refugees who had just met with tremendous natural disaster only ten days ago.
So, these were the people eulogized in our textbooks and television programs as being able to accept horrible suffering with patience and grace.
In the physical form of their laboring bodies, I saw and felt a force, an indomitable force pushing upwards.
There were no slogans, no bold and brave proclamations, nor any picture-perfect poses and images.
But their actions alone were sufficient evidence to the world of a tenacious people united together, as well as our unconquerable strength.
The farmers laboring on the rubble, they are China’s promise!
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