Andrea Hsu

Survivors from Juyuan Middle School

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Listen to Melissa Block on 'Morning Edition'

This morning, Melissa and I returned to Juyuan Middle School. We first visited the school Monday night, just hours after the earthquake.

Nothing to Fear sign

A blackboard still hangs on the wall of what used to be a third floor classroom. Above it, a Chinese flag, and three characters that read "Nothing to fear," a message of encouragement for the students, many of whom came from the countryside. Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR

That night, we saw half a dozen cranes and scores of military police working to rescue buried schoolchildren. We also saw families, too many to bear, grieving their loved ones. In the hours and days since, many, many more bodies were pulled from the rubble, though nobody seems to know just how many. From what we can gather, the death toll at the school is in the hundreds.

Today, it was a very different scene. The rescue operation has ended, though some told us that there are still children missing. Workers were spraying disinfectant on the rubble pile.

workers spraying disinfectant

Workers spray disinfectant on the rubble, they say to prevent the spread of disease. Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR

At the school, we met 17-year-old Huang Yibei, who repeated something we'd heard the other night: that when the earthquake struck, teachers at the school told students to stay put, and that was the reason so many of them died. Huang did not attend Juyuan Middle School, but had heard this from someone who did: his cousin, 15-year-old Huang Zhiwei.

Huang Zhiwei

15-year-old Huang Zhihui was in history class at Juyuan Middle School when the earthquake struck. He ran out of the school when the earthquake hit. Behind him, he heard screams and the sound of the building collapsing. Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR

We visited Huang Zhiwei in his home village just a few miles from the school. He greeted us in English and told us what happened Monday afternoon. He'd been in history class when the earthquake struck. His teacher stepped out to see what was happening, saw things falling from the roof, and told the students to get out. They ran down the staircase, which today, is the only part of the school still standing. Huang says most of his classmates are alive today because they ran. He remembers hearing the sound of the school collapsing behind him.

But the same is not true for the class that Huang's friend Wei Bo was in. Wei, also 15, was in politics class that afternoon. His telling of what happened is heartbreaking. His teacher, he says, did not realize just how serious the situation was. The teacher told the students to calm down, to stay seated. The building came tumbling down on the class. Wei Bo was lucky. He was not crushed by the concrete and steel, but miraculously ended up in an air pocket, and twenty minutes later, managed to crawl out of the debris, helping another buried student along the way. Tragically, many of his other classmates perished, and so did his teacher.

Melissa Block interviews Wei Bo

Melissa Block talks with earthquake survivor Wei Bo, 15 years old. Wei Bo was in politics class when the earthquake struck. His teacher did not realize how severe the earthquake was, he says, and told everyone to calm down and remain seated. Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Andrea Hsu, NPR

As the two teenage boys recounted their stories before us and a crowd of villagers today, I sat in awe of their composure and their courage. Melissa asked them about how they're doing. Huang Zhiwei told us, I don't dare go into buildings - I'm frightened by them. And Wei Bo said, the aftershocks - and there have been many - are scary.

Just as I was wondering whether these boys will ever be able to shake the terror they experienced this past Monday, I spotted them, on our way out, just being boys: running up a dirt road, laughing, getting on with their lives. And that gave me hope that although it seems like an impossibility now, life in this part of China may one day be normal once again.



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It is the second time I read such comments from ATC. I am not an expert in earthquakes, but the trainings I received instruct me to seek shelter if I am indoors during the earthquake. Rushing out may end up with more casualties. I am not sure whether the teachers were just following the guidelines.

The stairways typically are the first to collapse, and if everything rushed out, there would be a congestion.

I believe it is responsibilities of the journalist to check the facts before write a reporting hinting that the teachers are to blame.

Sent by wei | 12:32 PM | 5-15-2008

It is incredible that these children can not be affected emotionally by the pain and tragedy around them. Have they been so desensitized that they have no emotion. This does not seem like a good thing.

Sent by Lynette Clark | 12:40 PM | 5-15-2008

There are many touching stories that teachers sacrificed their lives to save their students, both in the tragedy and during the rescue process, in all those affected areas.

I sincerely hope NPR can report some stories on those brave ones who practiced the highest professionlism and showed the very nature of hero.

They deserve the highest respect from all of us.

Sent by Liang | 12:43 PM | 5-15-2008

Per my request sent minutes ago, here is a partial list of those brave teachers:
1. Wanrong Zhai, a teacher in a Preschool covered the kids using his/her body, saving all of them;
2. Ning Liu, a teacher in Beichuan County, saved 59 kids in her class but her daughter left her forever;
3. An un-named 28-year female teacher, pull out 13 kids in her class from the rubbles during the rescue, but she was killed by the aftershock, and her mother died, too.
4. Qianqiu Tan, a teacher at Dongqi High School, city of Deyang, sacrified his body to cover four students in his class, and all FOUR kids were saved.

there are just too many such brave people. I am very proud of these fellow Chinese from my hometown and truely hope more people can know these moving stories.

[to editor: don't post this as my comment, please. it is purely for providing some clue for your reporters]

Sent by Liang | 1:04 PM | 5-15-2008

Thanks for sharing the uplifting spirit of the survivors. They are amazing in facing tragedy.

Sent by Jia Yu | 1:23 PM | 5-15-2008

Lynette Clark speaks like a true American whose life is so comfortable that she has no idea how people in other parts of the world live. Yes, in a way, these children are desensitized, but not by ideology teaching if that's what Clark means. They are desensitized by the hardship of real life. They live in a poor place. Life is difficult. They have to be hardy to survive. Children in these kind of place learn to do chores at age of three. Make your opinion of what kind of society and what type of people they are if you have to. These people are real and they have emotions too. But they are hardy folks who yearn for a better life. They would grow up and become the famous migrant workers working for meager wages in big cities. They are the ones that will make the "Made in China" products that's so villified in the west. All they want is a better life. What little money they make, they will send back to their hometown to make their families backhome a little bit richer. If you really are concerned about the wellbeings of these childrens, maybe you should buy more products made in China instead.

Sent by Yccnorth | 1:25 PM | 5-15-2008

I don't watch television and depend on NPR for news of what is happening in the world. I appreciate the sensitivity and caring in which Melissa Block and Robert Siegel have reported the news of the earthquake in China. Listening to their reports on NPR and reading their Chengdu Diary posts have allowd me to view the devastation in China through their eyes.

Sent by Phyllis Bauer | 1:28 PM | 5-15-2008

To Lynette:
They are teenagers. I don't think they are not affected emotionally. They are just trying to escape the fear and sorrow by doing their own things.

Sent by C. Liang | 1:33 PM | 5-15-2008

To Wei:

Please re-read the post. These journalists are merely reporting on what the children said to them. They aren't assigning blame.

The teachers who told their students to stay put probably assumed their school had been built according to seismic standards. Apparently that wasn't a good assumption to make.

We can't fault the teachers, but if I were a parent, I would want to know who was responsible for cutting corners when that school was built.

Sent by Realist | 1:58 PM | 5-15-2008

I believe the teachers just used their judgement at that moment. When earthquake strike so fast, there was no time for the second decision. I don't think the NPR team there judged the teachers. They just recorded the fact.

Please help find out what is most needed in the short term in the region and what might be most needed in the long term.

Thanks and take care,


Sent by Connie | 2:08 PM | 5-15-2008

I'm a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, CA which is definitely earthquake country. During earthquake drills we instruct the students to get under their tiny little desks which cover only a fraction of their body. Reading about the collapse of this middle school in China makes me wonder, are we telling them to do the wrong thing?

Sent by Kane | 2:35 PM | 5-15-2008

Life in this part of China, WILL, one day be normal once again. No, it will be better! You know why? Because as a Chinese who grew up in this beautiful country among our beautiful people, I am confident than ever that we will survive and we will be strong!

There are things that average Americans just can't understand and probably will never do. Say not that it doesn't look like a good thing that these children are not showing emotions! Say not that they have been densensitized that they have no emotion!! Had you only know a thing or two about us!

Proud to be a Chinese than ever! Do you not see the entire country's transportation system is effectively close down to make way for rescuer and equipments! Do you not see the over 50000 brave soilders moved into the region within 48 hours!! Do you not see the young soldiers climb their way into the mountainous disaster areas despite the darkness of the night, the strong and cold rain and wind, and the non-stop after shocks and landslides!! Do you not see the brave 15 airtroopers jump out of the airplane at 5000m altitude with zero visibility in strong wind carrying only heavey communication equipments and medical supplies to get into the completedly isolated towns to gather information!! Do you not see all across the country people line up to wait for up to 4 hours just to donate their blood!! Do you not see pictures of young soilders crying hard only for they had to be evacuated because they themselves are injured during the rescue operation!!

Too many such examples shall I provide but still you may not understand!! Too many times have I already cried because of all the misinformation given to the indeed wonder average Americans about my country and my people. Too many times have my tears already run dry in the past 80 hours!!

But I stand by my country and my people. They will survive! We will survive and we will be strong!

Sent by Leo | 2:42 PM | 5-15-2008

I like Melissa's story from China and was moved by her reporting everyday. From those stories from ordinary people I learned the devestation of the quake, and appreciate the common things of people: we live in a global villiage after all.

Regarding to Wei's comments, I don't think it has much merits. Because as the story said, if one stick to Wei's advice (learned from books?), he/she will has little chance to survive. My point is stuff from books are sometimes not applicable, a person should use common sense in different situations...

Sent by Major | 2:51 PM | 5-15-2008

What are these children supposed to do, then, weeping all day long? I am sorry their recovery from the disaster does not fit the stereotypic pictures in some people's mind.
As we can all feel the immense mental stress put on these kids, we should not forget that life still needs to go on. I think this is the message that Melissa was trying to convey: there is always hope ahead.

Sent by Chen Chen | 2:53 PM | 5-15-2008

Wei, I agree that conventional wisdom suggests staying in a building during an earthquake.
Your earthquake training likely assumed building construction engineered to withstand the forces of an earthquake. Perhaps the instructor who ordered the class outside had information about the structure that we lack. Regardless, that action saved lives; in that building on that day, a rapid exit produced a better outcome. I expect each teacher did what they thought was best for the students.

I think your statement "I believe it is responsibilities of the journalist to check the facts before write a reporting hinting that the teachers are to blame" is unfair. I did not see any blaming in Ms. Hsu's article, just statements of what the reporters observed. I applaud NPR for bringing these observations to us. Perhaps the statement "His telling of what happened is heartbreaking" is editorializing, but this is not a comment that would lead me to question whether a journalist is writing responsibly.

The news, though often tense and, indeed, heartbreaking for anyone with relatives and friends in Sichuan, is better than silence. Let's not shoot the messenger.

Sent by Jon D. Moulton | 3:01 PM | 5-15-2008

For the person who said these children don't have emotions, apparently she did not understand that laughter is an emotion as well, a healthy emotion that can rightfully co-exist with pain, sorrow, profound loss and sadness, especially considering that they are children, their ability to find some momentary joy in the midst of the tragedy and pain is what builds their incredible resilience, what could prevent them from developing PTSD.

Sent by Tia Reed | 3:18 PM | 5-15-2008

Thank you again to the ATC crew in Chengdu to continue sending us excellent and touching reports. Stay safe!

The Chinese Red Cross Society web site has been very busy and slow making donation not possible. In case you would like to make a donation, Tzu Chi Foundation is a good option.
Charity Navigator ranks it with very mark with minimum expenses compared other big organizations. Tzu Chi Foundation is one of the first organizations, with official approval, on the ground helping in Sichuan at the moment.

NOTE: I do NOT endorse any specific one. Just FYI here.

Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the helpless people.

Sent by GEN. Flicker | 3:29 PM | 5-15-2008

I think NPR's been doing an outstanding job in reporting the earthquake and other international affairs. Thank you so much. People exposed to a free-press environment should be able to appreciate the true value of such reporting. I am from China and I want my fellow country men to know that I don't believe there is a conspiracy or prejudice behind every word a Westerner has to utter. In fact there are many, many kind hearts who care others including Chinese, living in the land portraited by some as nothing but hostile to, jealous of, arrogant at and biased against China.

Sent by xy | 3:46 PM | 5-15-2008

The epicenter of the quake is a relatively remote and poor region in China. It was very difficult to bring basic education to the children there. Since 1989 the 'project hope' ( started and became very successful in bringing schools to these regions. A huge number of new schools were constructed in a VERY short period of time. For the first time education became easily accessible for the children there. However, a lot of these schools were poorly built in terms of safety standards. The main school buildings are usually several stories tall in order to accommodate enough students, which could potentially cause large casualties in time of natural disasters. If you go to some poor villages in China, you will always find one tall and shining new building among the other rusted houses, that will be the school built under the Project Hope. It may look good on the outside but since they were built in a rush and without proper quality supervision. Local corruption does not help in this case either.

Sent by Steve | 3:56 PM | 5-15-2008

Hope Mellisa and the NPR reporting crew in China would just know how much their conscientious reports/stories they sent from China touched our hearts and souls. People are weeping and crying at those tragic stories but at the same time we are seeing and harboring the hope! Thank you so much for your great job! And please stay there safe!

Sent by laifu | 3:56 PM | 5-15-2008

I think the readers who have read Lynette Clark's post as critical of the emotions displayed by the children interviewed in this post have misunderstood her meaning. I don't think she was being critical at all, but instead is saying that going through such a scary experience would be desensitizing, and that that's really sad.

Sent by alex | 4:05 PM | 5-15-2008

Well said, Yccnorth. Americans in general are very loving and passionate people, including Lynette I'm sure. But they live in an entirely different world and will probably never truly understand how hard life can be in other parts of the world. That's why China and other poor countries have the god-given right to develop themselves so their people can one day live like Americans. At least Lynette had the interest to read and comment on these news. Hat off to her. Many Americans in my company don't even know this major earthquake in China. They are too busy following the NBA playoff games.

Sent by Hao | 4:20 PM | 5-15-2008

NPR often tries to trigger some negative associations in listeners' mind when they have reports about China.

Sent by Guo | 4:23 PM | 5-15-2008

Dear Lynette, you obviously are concerned the well being of these children. I can't say what their state of mind was when they spoke to Melissa. However, as a Chinese, I may provide you some insight of Chinese culture and its effect on our behaviors. Chinese people are very reserved. We keep our emotions checked and only reveal to our loved ones. Keeping our composure is viewed as dignified and showing strength. I assume that these two boys are very brave and they did their best being dignified and telling their life-death experience to a foreign reporter. They did show their emotions, such as fear of buildings and joy of friendship (the laugh). Of course, I do share your concern that this tragedy may leave a very deep scar in their development. I hope that all concerned and able NPR listeners donate some money to China Red Cross and help people like these two boys to get through this disaster and to rebuild their life.

Sent by ML | 4:25 PM | 5-15-2008

To all who are concerned that the children seem to be "desensitized": for kids who were born into less well-to-do families in the remote rural areas in China, "eat bitterness" (grin and bear with it) is one of their basic life philosophies.

Sent by Hui | 4:42 PM | 5-15-2008

Thank you Melissa for bringing the close detail report to us who are following the disaster closely and is looking desperately for any detail first-hand information. Stay safe and keep up the good work.

Sent by Gang | 5:04 PM | 5-15-2008

I think the reports says what they heard, the truth, though they are not supposed to tell the whole of it. I still appreciate the reporting through their eyes and voice. Thanks!

And of course I searched over internet and know much more from other media and reporters.

The kids do mourn their schoolmates or classmates who were buried by the rubbles, see their sad eyes...

But the alive have to go on ...

If everybody rushed out the stairway at the same time, nobody can tell how many will survive. Maybe in this case, a bit more ... But no right or wrong answer to this yet ..., although the lives perished in this school is trying to teach everyone.

The dead suffered for the alive, though the kids may not understand it now, as I am trying to understand that the ones who perished in the earthquake suffered for me (who lives on the other half of the Earth) and the other ~6 billion people, because the movement of the Earth's crust and other layers happen to be so violent for them, but very gentle, or stay still, for me and the other.

Yes, the earth is just a village now. We care our villagers ...
For those who suffered for me in the expense of your lives, I owe you. Please rest peacefully, and we'll remember you ...

For those who suffered for me in the expense of other loss, I will do my effort to relieve your pain ...

But, the alive, please go on, cherish, and thank ...

Sent by Mei | 5:42 PM | 5-15-2008

Now I know I why I will not make a contribution to NPR next year.

I wonder what Americans would think if a Chinese journalist goes to New Orleans and only try to gather negative stories about Katrina.

130000 soldiers and policemen mobilized 3 days after the earth quake in such a unforgiving locale in a third world country is nothing to be scolded at.

Sent by Wang | 6:13 PM | 5-15-2008

I know many of my fellow Chinese in this country have been weeping and praying for those kids. Everybody has been on the Internet a lot. It's especially hard to see those pictures of kids. I have posted some in my Chinese blog entry, in which I also mentioned Melissa Block's trembling in her voice. Many thanks again for your crew for your good report to American audience.

Some Chinese netters are also asking the hard question why the school buildings were among the first to collapse. I could even sense anger. But for most of us Chinese in this country, it's been a time for deep grief and prayers. And many of us are thinking about how we can help and taking actions (donation is probably the only thing we can do besides praying).

Sent by jidian | 6:19 PM | 5-15-2008

Dear Melissa,
This week has been hard to listen to your voice, I want to get inside the radio and give you a hug as your voice trembles when you narrate what you are experiencing in China. The pain in your voice goes straight to my soul and can't help but to wish that you were close to me to comfort you like I comfort my daughter or sister when they are sad. Listening to you narrating how people are excavating and finding bodies is painful. Thank you for sharing with us what you are seeing and experiencing. I wish I could do something for them. Tell me what we can do. What our community can do.
Warm regards,
Claudia P.

Sent by Claudia P. | 6:57 PM | 5-15-2008

To Lynette Clark,
I don't agree that the boys are emotionless. I think they just saw too many tragedies. The numbness is rather an unconscious defensive strategy of the brain.
My mother is an ER doctor. She tells me the way to survive such unimaginable trauma is to be numb to it. If she feels the pain of every dead patient's family, she would've killed herself.

Sent by jaque | 7:25 PM | 5-15-2008

Thank for your hard work in bringing these stories to us. Our prayers are with all of you and with those who are in the middle of this terrible disaster. The courage of your staff and excellent reporting is both encouraging and inspiring to a generation of reporters who will carry the legacy of public radio into the future. Thank you so much.

Sent by Johan Etsebeth | 7:28 PM | 5-15-2008

Dear Lynette,
I clearly remember playing with my close friend at the funeral ofhis brother who had been killed in the Vietnamese war. Play can be an attempt at putting things in order. As for the Chinese being taught not to show their emotions or being "desensitized"- I interact with Chinese people on a daily basis and see absolutely no evidence of this.
Perhaps you are confusing them with television characters-Vulcans. Anyway I hope you have a will to learn- that is what makes us, as humans, strong.

Sent by Tom | 7:45 PM | 5-15-2008

I recently listened to Melissa Block and Robert Siegel comment about their current experiences reporting on the recent earthquake disaster in China. Although I greatly respect both journalist and am a big fan of both these two journalist, I was very upset , angry and dismayed by some of the comments they made during their interview. Ms Block made references to her experiences with Hurricane Katrina saying that she couldn't understand why "one day after the disaster had occured ,their were no convoys of trucks and supplys heading towards some of the disaster hit areas and then went on to say how she was "stunned by how little was being done". YOU GOT TO BE KIDDING ! This was a major earthquake destroying and affecting major parts of China covering at least 2-3 hundred miles wide. Many of the cities and towns of which were no way even close to the modernized areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. Is Ms. Block even remotely aware of the logistics and coordination it would take to begin such operations of helping these people. For God sakes, it just doesn't happen by someone picking up the phone and calling 911. This is not some American made T.V. reality show, get a clue. Doesn't Ms Block realize where she is or does she think everyone lives as well as Americans do. As an American now living in China for the past two years, personally I was amazed and awed by the INC REDIBLE FAST AND EFFICIENT RESPONSE by the Chinese goverment to mobilize it's resources and help these poor people. They really put to shame the American government for it's handling of the Hurricane Katrina crisis. There is no way in h__ll that you could even remotely compare the two emergency responses by the respective govenrments.
Then Mr. Siegel went on to say how he couldn't understand why their was no "long term housing / tents for the currently displaced and homeless victims of the quake. FOR GOD SAKES PEOPLE WAKE UP !!!!!!!!! He himself made reference to the colossaly large numbers of people who have been gravely affected. People whose homes have been totally destroyed and wiped out. Thousands of of which require immediate urgent medical care. Of course people need long term housing but this to takes planning and cannot happen within only TWO DAYS of the disaster. Are these two reporters aware of what is really going on in the surrounding areas or are they only looking at the world with tunnel vision. The Chinese government has repeatedly said that "SAVING LIVES" because many people are still trapped possibly alive under massive mounds of rubble everywhere, is the number one goal of the government. Rightly so of course they haven't set up "long term housing". Two days after 911 do you really think anyone was thinking about long term housing while people were still buried under demolished buildings. I don't think so.
How could you make such incredibly naive and (excuse my language )stupid comments such as these.
I have been following the news coverage both internationally and locally by various news stations of the earthquake disaster and I have nothing but praise and kudos for the Chinese government's handling of the situation. (And this is coming from someone who did not previously have a high opinion of the government before I moved here to China but who is happy to say has reversed that thinking) Yes I am sure fingers will be pointed at various local officials for not doing enough before and after the quake for victims but isn't this always the case ?
More importantly though is how many lives are actually being saved because of the emergency relief efforts by the Chinese government. And unlike the unfortunate victims of Hurricane Katrina many of those affected here already live in much poorer conditions and have little or no access to medical care (which by the way is being provided free by the Chinese government to all affected by the earthquake).
I now understand know why people here in China become so angry and disturbed by the reporting of foreign journalist. Their reporting is often inaccurate because they don't have all of the facts before making such comments by Ms Block and Mr. Siegel. This in conjunction with unknowingly biased perspectives makes for a distortion of the truth and the news. And the truth is the Chinese government should be commended for it's efforts to help it's own people.

Sent by Wesley Wong | 7:46 PM | 5-15-2008

Hi Mr. Wesley Wong: I hope you were not overreacting and letting your emotions overwhelm you. I am sure you are under a lot of stress witnessing this disaster unfold. I think Block/Siegel and Company are doing a fantastic job, and personally I have never been so touched by news reporting like this. If you think about the cultural differences etc, you will have a different take on this. Thanks.

Sent by Matthew | 8:58 PM | 5-15-2008

I was also appalled by Ms Block's comment during today All Things Considered interview. She mentioned "Why there are no convoys on the empty street the day after the earthquake". Sichuan province is in mountain area. This was a 7.9 degree earthquake, which nobody expected or predicted. Major roads were destroyed. It's not like we have convoys standing by, waiting to rescue people on any given day. It takes time for relief effort to reach. While I totally understand the anger and frustration from the victims, Ms. Block should always check the background and use common sense.

Sent by Wenyan Yuan | 9:14 PM | 5-15-2008

Trust me, Lynette. These teenagers have went through a lot in the past few days; they were so close to death. Please allow them to be light-hearted in a moment or two. I don't think their pain and panic caused by this disaster can go away so fast; they might come back from time to time to twist their little hearts.

Here, Peter Hessler has written something that might solve your puzzle.

Sent by jiajia h. | 9:24 PM | 5-15-2008

I understand the report here is only citing others. But is the implication clear? The kids rushed out against instructions survived, and those followed orders died. It might be controversial whether to stay or rush out during an earthquake, I just wish the journalists here could have pointed out staying indoors to seek shelter is the instructions from any earthquake preparing training. Would you expect the teachers to give instructions against it?

The recommendation to stay and not rush out is not based on the assumption that the building will hold up as someone indicated above. Earthquakes are quick, if buildings do collapse, they probably collapse quick, even within dozens of seconds, and the stairways might be first to. And if hundreds of kids all rushed out at the same time, how many could really get out in time? How many would be stuck in the most dangerous part of the building?

Someone tried to defend the story by saying that the story is not trying to assign blame, but we also see people blaming the teachers based on this story right here under this blog. Is this fair to those teachers who died bravely protecting the kids?

What is the best way to survive an earthquake? I don't know, and I will leave that to experts. I only plea to stop pointing fingers, intentionally or not. At least not to those who died tragically and heoricly.

Sent by wei | 9:39 PM | 5-15-2008

Here are some photos taken at Beichuan High School on May 11, one day before the earthquake.

Sent by john | 9:51 PM | 5-15-2008

This is the third time in two days that your reporting has reduced me to tears. Talk about driveway moments, I haven't been able to leave my car, nor can I drive for the tears streaming from my eyes. Your reporting has so powerfully brought home the human element in this catastophe. Thank you

Sent by Katie Paine | 10:28 PM | 5-15-2008

It is from this piece of news that I witness the HUGE difference between East and West.

Sent by Liang | 10:42 PM | 5-15-2008

We will be introducing Chinese into our school curriculum in the fall of 2008. Over the past year I have been reading about China and trying to get an understanding for this far away world that I will have to sponsor. In listening to the reports, right or wrong aside, I have learned that people are the same the world over, that mothers of children weep when they stand helplessly by and can't do anything to save their children - and I wept too, Through the reports, I have learned that we are not so different though many miles apart and cultures apart.

Sent by Jill | 10:45 PM | 5-15-2008

"NPR often tries to trigger some negative associations in listeners' mind when they have reports about China."
more like...
Chinese citizens often look for negative associations in any report when they read or listen to western media.
Gee, I was getting an interesting insight into lives of people in a place I know little about at a time of great tragedy. How better to overcome all the things we don't know about each other?
The reporting this week has been excellent. How fortunate we were that Robert and Melissa were there to bring us this story. Kudos to NPR.

Sent by CF | 11:32 PM | 5-15-2008

To Wei: I personally think that Ms. Block is not blaming any of the two teachers in this report. Huang Zhiwei's teacher asked them to escape, they survived. His cousin's teacher asked his students to stay, they died. If you think she is blaming the teacher who ashed student to stay, could we also make the point she is praising the teacher who asked students to get out?

I do believe the western media systematically distorted the Tibetan issue. But I would say, in generally, they are handling pretty well on the earthquake reporting. Even though there are some comments we disagree with.

Sent by C. Liang | 11:34 PM | 5-15-2008

I second Wesley Wong's whole comment. Yes I was shocked too when Mellisa made the comparison between the rescue efforts of Chinese government during the earthquake and that of US during Katrina. And I was disappointed again later in my favorite Tom Ashbrook's show.

As objective as NPR tries to be, or appears to be most of the time, I have to say they are still holding that typical American view against China and the Chinese government. They try hard to trigger any negative comment against the Chinese government and when they get anything they make a deal out of it.

Well, it might be too much for them to admit that the Chinese government, which is not a democracy by any of their standards, cares more about its own people and acted more promptly than the US in Katrina. We don't need your recognition of Chinese government's efforts, as we know it very well ourselves through the past few days. I sigh in my heart and turned off the radio.

On the other hand, my fellow Chinese, this is the reality. This is the best an "objective" US reporter can get to. NPR made a very sincere effort to bridge the gap in understanding (both in Chengdu series and the earlier Shanghai series) and that's a remarkable start, already way better than the CNN or BBC's we encountered a few weeks ago. For that, I thank them.

Sent by J. Yang | 12:29 AM | 5-16-2008

I agree with Wesley Wong about how the government handled this disaster. Both of my parents are from Sichuan. My uncle and grandma live in Chengdu. I've been to the affected area in 2001 and even spent a night in the epicenter.

The terrain was so tremendously hard even in a good day. After the earthquake most of the remote towns are out of reach because landslide destroyed all the roads. Many towns are completely leveled and we know many people are still trapped under rubble. With the available manpower and resources at hand, these towns--which is a lot more remote than Dujiangyan and NPR crews probably have not ventured that far, understandably become the focus of the army and the government.

For survivors in Dujiangyan, aids are trickling in from all over the country as well. Melissa was probably just stating her feeling as to the lack of aid she saw, but It takes time for aid to reach on a disaster at this magnitude. If this earthquake happened elsewhere in a better terrain, the effort would have been more effective. But sadly and thankfully it didn't, because better terrain means more people in China. Bless my countrymen.

Sent by Kevin | 12:45 AM | 5-16-2008

Listening to Melissa's reports on the horrific scene at the Juyuan Middle School and Ms. Fu and Mr. Wang's search for their child broke my heart, but it also made me very angry and extremely frustrated.

I am angry at all levels of Chinese government!

-People in China are asked, in many cases forced, to observe the one child policy, they followed the policy and sacrificed their family traditions. In return, should the government guarantee that the kindergartens and schools are the safest place on earth? Should the school buildings the last to fall in an earthquake, or under any type of natural disasters?

Is that really too much to ask?

In any city, there are more government buildings than school buildings, why can't government guarantee the few school buildings are the safest?

If government's office buildings can sustain the earthquake, why can't the school buildings?

-In response to the earthquake, government sent in many soldiers to help the rescue work. Why do they send in these empty handed soldiers? China is no stranger to massive earthquakes, should they already know that without tools those soldiers can not really help much?

If more cranes and excavators, rather than the empty handed soldiers, had been sent to the earthquake affected areas, more life could have been saved.

Why did it take four days for the government to ask for tools?

Sichuan is also no stranger to massive earthquakes, although no one can predict an earthquake, but is it too hard to be prepared for the worst?

Sent by Jian | 1:58 AM | 5-16-2008

Many years ago, a Chinese airplane was hijacked by a terrorist, and a brave and smart attendant fought and took down the terrorist.

All passengers were safely landed eventually. However, the attendant and Chinese government were harshly blamed in that these action may highly jeopardize the safely of passengers and shouldn't be encouraged.

On September 9/11, two compliant planes hit WTC and one for Pentagon. After 9/11, the US government was allowed to use missiles to directly shot down these wrong-piloted planes. Funny!

I was working in Chengdu that day, when the office building shook heavily, I didn't think I had the chance to run out. I just stayed and tried to find pillars to stand by.

The teacher was nothing to blame.

Sent by gwang007 | 2:59 AM | 5-16-2008

I urge you to visit the site which John mentioned, with photos of what we might call a "field day" or fun sports event. It's painful to see those beautiful children enjoying a life that for many was about to end, and for all, to change.
NPR's reporting has been strong and vivid, and I hope all of us are grateful that their journalistic training has kept them giving clear-sighted reportage in the face of what must be an incredible emotional load. When you read about their questioning, "Where are the convoys?" before convoys could reasonably have been assembled, try to remember your emotions after an auto accident or a house fire. "Where is the ambulance?" "Where are the fire engines?" It's human and natural to want immediate action. Of course we know (and I'm sure so do the NPR staffers) just how difficult it is to mount a major rescue operation.
I admire the Chinese response to this disaster. I am impressed by their openness to the media, and by their strong positive response -- as reported by NPR itself AND by the bloggers whose comments were given above.

Sent by Kathleen Lynch | 4:38 AM | 5-16-2008

Here's why the rescuers couldn't reach the hard-hit area:

Sent by gwang007 | 4:56 AM | 5-16-2008

I applaud NPR's effort to bring the story to the US listeners as realistic as possible. I was moved to tears many times by their reporting.

However, I do not think it is fair to compare Katrina in New Orleans with this earthquake. Here is why:

1. This earthquake affected area as large as a small European Country (compare to a city like New Orleans).

2. This area is very remote, mountainous (unlike New Orleans that has many highways and roads).

3. The affected populations are in millions instead of thousands.

4. The Chinese has never lived in Trailers, no idea what FEMA trailer. To ask the Chinese government to distribute trailers like US shows how these reporters has no clue on the way of life in China.

So please do not compare this earthquake with Katrina. Katrina is America's disgrace and shame. I hope this earthquake will not be China's disgrace. Instead, it will show the world what strong and compassionate people the Chinese people really are.

Sent by Sleepywillow | 8:13 AM | 5-16-2008

To Jian:

Please understand that these are situations of natural disaster, no building would survive a level 7 earthquake. And for the shortage of supplies and equipment, I assume you were from China and must know a little about the geographic arrangement of Si Chuan or Szechuan Province.

The roads surrounding the mountain are hard to travel by even in good perfect weather. And strong wind and rain persisted for several days after the earthquake, along with hundreds of after shock has made the roads impossible to travel on. The rescue workers had to carried supplies on their back and marched into certain regions.

Sent by T.H | 8:57 AM | 5-16-2008

To Matthew,
Thanks but no thanks for you comments regarding my criticisms of Michelle Block and Robert Seigle. First let me say that I have always been a long time supporter of NPR and also of these fine journalist. But no, I was not over reacting and letting my emotions get the best of me when I made these previous comments about their reporting.I also am not under a lot of stress but I do greatly feel for the victims of this earthquake considering I grew up in San Francisco, a city not unfamiliar with the destructive power of earthquakes. And finally cultural differences have nothing to do with the comments I made seeing as how I am a third generation American. If anything you would think my comments would be critical of the Chinese government because of my "Western" upbringing. What you fail to understand is that people's view of others are greatly influenced by the press and media (particularly in the West). It wasn't until I moved to live here in Beijing, China that i realized how biased and untruthful Western news media can be. Still I have always thought of NPR as being totally unbiased and fair in it's news reporting. Which is why I was so "upset and emotional" about what I had heard coming from these two reporters. Maybe Matthew you should consider relocating and living in China for awhile and I am sure you as well will have a different take on this..............

Sent by Wesley Wong | 11:49 AM | 5-16-2008

Shichuan province is famous for it's difficult road since ancient times.
The old saying is: Road in Shichuan is difficult, as difficult as the road to heaven.

It is understandable why convoys can reach some areas instantly.

I think the government has tried it best to handel the situation and ought to be praised about it.

However, after handeling the current situation, it is more important to see if they make any moves on setting up a system effectively to handel future diasters like this. Shool buildings ought to be built better, drills of earthquake ought to be part of training. Ought to have a plan for reaching remote villiges faster.

This is not a time for finger pointing. But I hope that after a while, chinese people will ask these hard questions.

Also, many thanks to NPR reporters. They are doing the best job they can in bring a human face of Chinese people to listeners.

Sent by aChineseInUS | 12:01 PM | 5-16-2008

Maybe this is not the time to point finger yet, but we do need to think about later what causes the huge loss. Both natural and human factors should be taken into account.

Good news is that the government starts to investigate why some school buildings collapsed:

Sent by C. Liang | 12:05 PM | 5-16-2008

I agree with Wesley Wong's response to the comments made by Mrs. Block and Mr. Siegel. Yesterday when I was on my way home, I was listening to NPR and I felt strongly offended my those comments. It seems to me the fact that 20,000 troops and police force were dispatched to the affected area in the first five hours, 130,000 soldiers in two days does not count as "help" in NPR reporters' mind.

They even did not mention that they have been to only one place because the roads to the rest of the affected area were just gone; pouring rain, mudslide and hundreds of aftershocks every day made any efforts to clear them useless.

It would be more objective if your reporters could point out the epicenter and most damaged towns are located in remote mountainous area and soldiers had to be parachuted into those areas to survey the damage, set up comm and provide immediate help. By comparing different governments' response on Katrina and the earthquake, you showed your report is shallow and self-righteous.

Sent by John Lin | 1:26 PM | 5-16-2008


Just a note to reply to some previous comments and to clarify: When I talked in our interview on ATC Thursday about there being no convoys on the road, I was referring to the highway leading from Chengdu, the provincial capital, to Dujiangyan, about 35 miles away. This road is untouched by the earthquake. It's a major highway, six lanes, I believe, leading from one major city to another. I wasn't referring to the smaller, damaged mountain roads, and should have made that distinction clearer. Regardless, the Chengdu-Dujiangyan highway is now so busy with convoys of equipment and supplies that it's been closed to all but emergency vehicles. Thanks to all of you for writing so faithfully!

Sent by Melissa Block - NPR | 2:00 PM | 5-16-2008

Dear NPR Team in Chengdu:

I am so touched Chengdu Diary on this unspeakable disaster of earthquake in Sichuan, my home town. I am very impressed by Melissa and her team's effort going to Baichuan county as far as possible just a few hours after the earthquake. You are one the teams that got there first after the quake. I can sense your caring for people and their life in this country. I also feel your spirit of the true journalism through these reports.

The comfort in this horrible disaster comes from the great rescue effort of Chinese people, army, government and leadership, as well as international teams, which you are part of it.

I certainly hope we all would learn a lot from this disaster and be more proactive for the future natural disasters.


Sent by Huameng Li | 2:10 PM | 5-16-2008

Wesley Wong echoes my thought. As a Chinese who has been in the US 7 years, I have become numb to western journalists' endless efforts to brainwash people with this equation: an authotorian government = thugs and goons and treat its own people like government, and anything good they have done should be neglected and any mishandlings or imperfections is because it is not democratic. When Chinese people do not take side with western media, it is because we are brainwashed and ignorant and are in a mob's mentality, including people like me who spent years in US listening to radio, reading newspapers, and watching TV. And any thing a democratic government does is correct, at least is correct in principle. Labeling people is always much easier to collect facts and argue using facts and logic. Having said all that, to all of my fellow Chinese, NPR is the most objective and informative news media I personally find in US and is exponentially better than CNN, BBC, FOX... Even NPR listeners are exponentially more open-minded, tolerant, and kinder than other media audience that I can tell from their online comments. Journalists are also human beings grown up in a certain culture and society and bias is unavoidable. I applaud NPR's efforts to land in China and feel the society in person, and hope people can make serious efforts to learn and understand other societies and cultures before jumping out to label everything not democratic as evil.

Sent by j.w. | 2:57 PM | 5-16-2008

I am glad and relieved to read Wesley Wong and j.w.'s comments here. I was born and raised in China, came to the states when I was 16 and lived here ever since (~11 years). Recently, I had several discussions about recent Chinese activities on the international stage (CNN, Tibet etc) with my boyfriend, who is French Canadian. And he expressed exactly the same view j.w. described in his comment. I felt helpless and was unprepared to defend myself. Thank you j.w. for putting my thoughts into words.

I am from Chengdu, and I am happy that all of my relatives and friends (at least ones I could get hold of) are fine. Best of wishes to everyone in SiChuan.

Sent by OrangePanda | 6:46 PM | 5-16-2008

To OrangePanda, thanks for your nice words. If you want to learn more about Tibet issues to help you defend youself in front of your bf, I suggest you search for Mark A. Jones discussion on PBS forum on web (unfortunately the forum has been closed). Or you ask your bf to go to China and find it out himself. As long as we acknowledge the numerous problems that do exist in China, it is not difficult at all to explain those issues IF your audience is open-minded and at least has the conscience to admit that he/she might be wrong or misled.

Sent by j.w. | 8:27 PM | 5-16-2008

The Earthquake Tips from FEMA:
Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Most injuries during earthquakes occur when people are hit by falling objects when entering into or exiting from buildings.

It's a shame to give the hints that the teachers should be blamed. I can hear what you would say if the students were killed while escaping from the building. That's because their teachers ask them to do that, eh?

Sent by Wang Linlin | 12:30 AM | 5-17-2008

one thing is certain: the central government seem to be determined to get the bottom of the constructions for those collapsed buildings, especially those collapsed buildings outside of the epicenter.

Sent by ipfreak | 6:34 AM | 5-17-2008

Dear Melissa Block and Robert Siegel,
I apologize if my reaction to your interview about the current earthquake disaster was so strong and my comments so "scathing". It was not my intent to offend either of you personally. And thank you Melissa for clarifying your comments about where it was that you were referring your comments to when you did the interview.

As I mentioned in my comments previously I have been living here in China for the past two years and it has been to say the least a, a real eye opener for me as a American and to be more specific as a Chinese American male.

I didn't realize how much of my reality and perceptions about China were so absolutely wrong. Wrong to the point of which it has led me and many of my fellow Chinese American friends and relatives to totally disassociate ourselves from China and the citizens of this country. Which is why I now feel responsible to personally clarify any misunderstandings and wrong assumptions about this wonderful country of China. I wlll always love my home country of America and it from being a U.S. citizen that I have learned to stand up for what is right.
I think the recent Tibet incident with China really tipped the scale for me in terms of me realizing how slanted Western reporting is with regards to putting China in a such a negative light. I was so disgusted with all of the one sided reporting that I read with various Western news organizations (BBC, CNN, etc. etc.) that I eventually stopped reading any news when it came to reporting on China.

I want you to know that NPR was the only exception to this and I still feel that your news organization and everyone involved with it is the best and most unbiased news and information agency around.
I am sure you meant no criticism (by your remarks) of the Chinese government's handling of this situation and your insistence to continue reporting on this major human disaster in spite of possible personal physical harm to yourselves is to be applauded and commended. I look forward to reading more of you coverage about the Wenchuan Earthquake and wish you both a safe and successful trip home.

Thanks for the great reporting and more importantly to NPR for allowing people to air their comments even if it is critical at times of NPR's news reporting......the latter is what makes your organization so great !

Sent by Wesley Wong | 7:40 AM | 5-17-2008

Kudos to you Mr. Wong, kudos to Melissa Block and Robert Siegel. We are ALL human after all. This is how misunderstand is broken down.

Lets leave the politics out and give some room for humanity. The worst affected area has Han, Tibetan and other ethnicities people living there. Disaster does not discriminate.

The people and the government of China is doing all they can to help the victims. They are to be praised. I send my deepest sympathy and prayer to the victims of the earthquake and utmost respect to the rescuer.

On a side note, NPR has been mostly objective and they have always been among most medias. I would also like to praise Louisa Lim for her very factual and observed reports too. Good to see her back as ever better journalist after I last heard from her on the BBC when she just about to have a child.

Sent by K.Z | 1:02 PM | 5-17-2008

My impression of the story, as reported, was that no one was blaming the teachers. Quite simply, Melissa Block was retelling what the boy said. No blame was assigned.

Sent by Marc | 8:41 PM | 5-17-2008

Mellisa, You are one of the greatest reporters and have moved me to tears many times during this tragic time. Thank you for your honest reporting.

Sent by Jim Ren | 9:23 AM | 5-18-2008

The ATC reporting on the earthquake was not something that was planned, as the crew was there to work on a different story. But with all of the amazing professionalism, attention to detail, and compassion we are accustomed to from NPR a window has been given to this heart breaking story from day one. I can roll with the journalistic quakes on this one, given the fact there was not much time for pre-story research.

Sent by Mary Alvarado | 10:42 PM | 5-18-2008

Melissa looks really cool.

Sent by Tom | 8:17 PM | 5-20-2008

Despite the fact that maybe no one was trying to lay blame on the teachers, it sure sounds that way. The teachers were simply following earthquake procedure: Stay put, under something solid if possible, until the shaking stopped. It was not their fault.

However, I have to say Great job, Melissa, for writing an incredible article.

Sent by Anonymous | 5:07 PM | 5-22-2008

Most people in NATO/white nations don't understand that the more open China becomes, the less love they have for the west due to the fact that a real picture is not that great! This includes its political system, legal system, propaganda media as well as many naive, ignorant yet arrogant people in these countries. When China was closed, people had much better impression of the west. They now see a real west with deep-rooted racism, corruption, hypocricy, arrogance, stupility, etc. I once met a 78 old American woman. On the surface, she is kind, goes to her local cathlic church every Sunday, has master degree in literature, has upper-middle class table manner, likes to feel good by considering herself a world saver, does not know any foreign language but always has strong opinions about things and events happened in other countries, watch "news" everyday and 100% believe anything reported by CNN or BBC, and of course loves to talk about freedom, democracy and human rights. After I'd known her for over 10 years, I consider her cold-hearted and lack true human passion; a person who is hypocratic and deeply racially/culturally biased. I had a lot of examples. For instance, when the Iraqi war started, I said to her that it was too bad because many ordinary people would lose their lifes. You know what she said to me: "Sometimes war can help our economy." in a very casual tone! When she saw on the TV that thousands of Iraqi families tried to escape the capital city and many families took as much as they could and put all their properties in a small car to leave before bombs droped, this old "civilized lady" said to me: "Did you see the traffic jam? It's so funny that these people are escaping in their cars! Haha!!" She was laughing when she said this! Did she ever think about putting all her belongs in a small car and had to leave her own house, city, or even her own country? Did she ever think about the fear and desperation these ordinary Iraqis must feel and the unkown future they had to face? This old American woman even did not want to leave her own house and move into a nursing home! When I was listening to her comments, I felt so chilly! What kind of human being who could have such a cold heart? Does she have the moral credibility or authority to preach human rights to others? Think about how many such average Joes and Danas in u.s.!! When more Chinese get to know a real west and real westerners, what can you expect from them? The whole feel-good west moral aupuriority is just laughable and disgusting! Now many americans are against the Iraqi war, not because they really care about Iraqi people, but because the war didn't go as well as they expected.

Sent by Michael | 9:54 AM | 5-28-2008

I find it amazing that anyone would have the audacity to "judge" the response of children who have just been through living hell...
And since when is everybody and their mother an earthquake expert!?!
As an American living in Shanghai, I can't tell you how disapointing and incorrect it is to manipulate the Western opinion about the Chinese people. They are trying incredibley hard to do what's right and all they ever get from the West is disdainful & condescending remarks.
I would think that a tragedy like this would bring us all closer to a shared empathy towards each other and the rest of the world.

Sent by Daniel Wolf | 5:14 AM | 6-2-2008

Being a Chinese living in the US for almost 10 years, I understand perfectly the point Wesley and Daniel tried to make. There is no easy solution to this problem. Misunderstanding takes time to build up and takes even longer time to dissolve. I don't want to blame anyone for being ignorant of people from other countries. The best thing to do is trying our best to solve the problem. No matter if Melissa has made an unappropriated comment or not, her being there reporting the whole earthquake event to millions of audiences in the US is a great push to help melt the thick ice between China and America. I am not fond of abusing words or going on protests etc. I believe action is far more efficient than any words. If you find something is wrong, you fix it and you don't just complain that there is something very wrong. Certainly most of us are not like Melissa, who can influence millions of people. But we can still talk to our friends, relatives, and co-workers. If everyone is trying their best, things can only get better, not worse. And be patient, which is very important. From my personal experience, I used to argue with American friends over Tibet and it was not a pretty scene. Now I don't argue anymore, instead, I just list the facts, which most Americans have absolutely no clue, besides the propagandas from the media.

Last but not least, I encourage everyone, no matter Chinese or Americans, to do your best to help each side to understand each other better. NPR has done a fantastic job and I greatly appreciate their effort. After all, we are all human beings and we are the same people who want to live a happy life and to help others to have a better life as well.

Sent by Ying | 7:47 PM | 6-5-2008


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