China, a Year After the Deadly Sichuan Quake

A little before lunchtime in a former mountainside resort famous for its homemade tofu and river fish, a 75-year-old woman with her back bent from years of manual labor, counts the short scraps of wire she was able to salvage from old city construction. Most of the original buildings were destroyed by the earthquake, and the village has since been replaced by a large expanse of temporary housing. Her family is no longer able to farm the cropland that was razed in preparation for housing developments; she has spent all morning sifting through rubble for wire, which will be traded in for the equivalent of 70 cents.

In an ideal situation, disaster recovery also addresses prevention -- the building of new structures to withstand future quakes, for example. This is particularly important in Sichuan, which has experienced no fewer than five major earthquakes since the turn of the last century. The thousands of aftershocks rumbling through the area in the past year have served as constant reminders that the question is not whether there will be another earthquake, only when.

Back in the temporary room occupied by the Lu household, the ivy garlands looped through the rafters are a reminder of the recent festivities. The couple recall the gathering of family and friends who, for a moment, were able to forget their heartache to commemorate this happy occasion. "Life still moves on, but we will never forget."

The continued weddings, births, reunions are a poignant demonstration of how life has moved on in the province. The Sichuan people refuse to be defined by loss, sorrow, or tragedy. Despite the adversity they have survived, and the uncertainty they face, they are mind-bendingly resilient, and hopeful for the future.

Drs. Kendall Krause and Charlotte Wu traveled to the Sichuan region of China to provide medical care and survey the progress of rebuilding after a massive earthquake hit that region May 12 last year. Both graduated from the Yale School of Medicine. Wu is currently a resident physician in primary care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. Krause completed her emergency medicine internship at the Harvard affiliated program, and is currently a medical writer.

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