Local Residents React To China Earthquake
The most powerful earthquake in China in modern times -- now rated at 8 by the government there -- has shaken residents in Moore County.
Chinese Americans who live and work here are contributing money for earthquake relief efforts in China, according to Leon Zhang, who owns the Peking Wok restaurant chain in Moore County. He went online to donate through the American Red Cross, and says workers who cook and work tables are also contributing. One waitress was leaving on vacation.
"(She) was going to visit her family in New York," Zhang said in an interview Wednesday. "She told me the first thing she was going to do when she got there was make a donation and then give blood. Others here were donating, too. Everybody in China is pitching in."
Images of the vast destruction flashed around the globe by Internet and television news shocked and saddened him.
"I cried," Zhang said. "I don't want to say it, but I did. You just can't control it -- watching."
Zhang was one of a group of North Carolinians who went last year with state Sen. Harris Blake, of Pinehurst, and members of the Upchurch family to attend the dedication in Hunan Province of a memorial to Lt. Robert Hoyle Upchurch of High Falls -- a Flying Tiger shot down in World War II.
That part of China is east and south of the epicenter of the May 12 quake and its aftershocks -- seismic events that have taken a murderous toll in human life. The number of dead could reach 80,000, according to government reports, with 15 million homeless. Aftershocks this week have hit workers trying to drain a landslide-formed lake before its unstable dam breaks.
"I wish it hadn't happened, of course," Zhang said. "But it has brought out the wonderful nature of people in times of disaster. You see beggars -- people who beg for a living -- making donations. The whole country is moved."
The national government of China surprised Zhang with its immediate response. About 46,000 soldiers parachuted into the Sichuan Province area at the center of the quake the day after it struck. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao went in person. Here in Moore County, friends and customers wanted to be sure Zhang's people back in China were safe.
"My family is fine," Zhang said. "They live in Henan Province, in Liuyang."
Liuyang, one of the ancient capital cities of China, is a considerable distance east and north of the epicenter.
"Within two hours, the prime minister was on the scene," he said. "Wen Jiabao was on a plane, and had the flight change course."
Wen did not make a long speech asking for efforts to deal with the catastrophe, Zhang said.
"All he said -- to the Army, to officials, to everybody -- was look and decide," Zhang said. "He said, 'You look, and decide what to do.' Simple and powerful. It means determine honestly and act with sincerity. It means something more, something he had no need to say: if not, trouble. People are comparing him to Zhou Enlai."
Zhou is considered the father of modern China. As foreign minister, he advocated peaceful coexistence with the West and helped orchestrate Richard Nixon's 1972 visit.
Other leaders in China are taking historic symbolic steps seldom seen, according to Zhang.
"Five or six generals have signed death notices," he said. "It is an old custom. They sign that, they will give their lives in this cause if need be. It means determination. It means they are saying whatever is needed, they will do it. Generals don't have to do that, but they did."
Aftershocks continue, but the world is marveling at the speed of the national effort and the open attitude of the government to international aid.
The summer Olympics in Beijing that begin Aug. 9 -- the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year -- were to be China's front window to the world, he said. Instead, it may be the nation and the Chinese people's quick and compassionate response to this earthquake that gives China recognition and praise.
"People see what they are doing," Zhang said. "The government surprised me. Everybody wants to help."
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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