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Rebirth in the face of death

By Cao Yin in Beijing and Huang Zhiling in Chengdu | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-11 09:44

Jiang Yuhang trains a search dog in Kaili, Guizhou province. [Jiang Hongjing / Xinhua]

Jiang Yuhang regards the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake as his rebirth and something to treasure in his life.

His survival was seen by many as a miracle. The then-19-year-old intern at the Yingxiu highway administration spent 124 hours trapped under the rubble of a six-story building in Yingxiu township, Sichuan province, near the quake's epicenter, and he could smell the bodies of his dead colleagues nearby.

Ten years later, he still clearly remembers catching glimpses of the orange uniforms of the firefighters in the rescue team through the cracks in the debris that separated him from safety.

"Seeing those flashes of color made me feel secure and brought hope, so I made a decision at that moment to join them," the 29-year-old said.

Six months after the quake, he joined a rescue unit affiliated to the Shanghai Fire Service, which had saved his life. Later, he was transferred to his hometown, Kaili in Guizhou province, as part of an emergency response team.

"I am able to better understand peoples' feelings of hopelessness and fear during an emergency, because I have been in the same situation," he said.

The work has helped him to realize that it is not easy to become a good rescue worker. Every firefighter is always ready to respond quickly when the alarm bell rings, no matter what they are doing, because "no one knows when the next emergency will come".

At first, the work was new and exciting, and even though Jiang has inevitably settled into a routine, he has never regretted his choice.

Although the upcoming 10th anniversary of the quake means he cannot avoid recalling the disaster, he has devised his own method of dealing with it.

"Every May 12, I talk in my heart to the people who saved me and helped me after the disaster. I report the year's achievements and failures to them," he said, referring to the imaginary conversations he has with his saviors.

"The significance of commemorating the event is that we should improve our rescue services because learning lessons from a disaster can help to prevent us from being harmed again," he added. "I am proud to be a firefighter. For me, the happiest thing in the past 10 years has been better understanding the job and becoming fully integrated with the rescue team. I want to do this work for as long as possible."


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