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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Our co-host, Melissa Block, is in Sichuan province of China this week leading up to the anniversary of the earthquake that killed some 90,000 people. Last year we were in Sichuan when the earthquake struck. And many listeners were riveted in particular by one of Melissa's stories two days after the quake. She spent the day with a young couple as rescue workers searched for their toddler son and his grandparents who had been buried in the debris of a collapsed six-storey apartment building. Here's a bit of Melissa's story from last May.

(Soundbite of crowd)

MELISSA BLOCK: Ms. Fu is climbing up through sharp pieces of metal.

Unidentified Man: (Mandarin spoken)

Ms. FU GUANYU: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: She's calling out her son's name, Wang. She's peering - peering through the bricks.

Ms. FU GUANYU: (Mandarin spoken)

(Soundbite of screaming)

BLOCK: Oh, the dad is now crawling deep under the masonry and that's not safe.

(Soundbite of screaming)

BLOCK: Doubled over, shaking her fist, doubled over in terror, begging him to come out, so that he wouldn't get hurt or crushed by these piles of debris.

SIEGEL: By the end of that day, the young boy and his grandparents were found -all three had died. Well, today Melissa brings us an update on the family and what's happened in the past year.

BLOCK: I've thought a lot about this couple since last May - the mother, Fu Guanyu and the father, Wang Wei. They had allowed me to be a witness to a day of excruciating grief. A day that ended with the knowledge that their only child was dead, a boy not quite two, named Wang Zilu. He died in the arms of his grandparents. From time to time I've exchanged emails with the young boy's aunt, whom I met that day. Her name is Wang Dan.

When I came back here to Sichuan, she told me that her brother and sister-in-law were too emotionally fragile to talk. But she said she could tell me a bit about how her family is doing. We talked after dinner at a restaurant in Dujiangyan.

Wang Dan, I saw you just about a year ago on the worst day of your life. And it's great to see you again and looking so good.

Ms. WANG DAN: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: I'm really happy to see you, too.

I think a lot of people who heard the story last year are wondering how your family's doing one year after the earthquake, what would you tell them?

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: After the earthquake, we were homeless. In the beginning, we stayed in tents. Later we moved to temporary housing. Conditions in Dujiangyan were poor. And living there made us think of all the sad things that had happened. So my brother and sister-in-law moved to a dormitory provided by his work, and I did the same.

On July 30th, after we found a good burial spot for my parents and my nephew, we buried their ashes. For us, a funeral was a way of saying goodbye. And after we said goodbye, we all felt a bit of relief in our hearts.

Tell me about your brother, about Wang Wei. Are you able to talk to him about what happened during the earthquake and how your family is doing now?

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: After we had taken care of things, we didn't talk about the earthquake again. Because every time we talked about it he'd start thinking about a lot of things and he'd get depressed. He might've been happy the minute before, even the second before, but mention the earthquake and his face would suddenly turn dark.

And is that true with your sister-in-law, too, with Fu Guanyu?

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: My sister-in-law is stronger. But because my nephew died in the quake, seeing children makes her very sad.

So it sounds like you can't - you haven't been able to share memories of your parents or of your nephew Wang Zilu.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: No matter how wonderful the memories, we don't dare think back on them. Actually, just bringing this up makes me sad.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: Even seeing my father's handwriting - it's really painful.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: When I slept, I dreamt about it. When I woke, I'd think about it more. Many months have passed, and I cannot forget those images.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: I think I'm actually very strong, but my brother…

Has Wang Wei ever been able to tell you why he can't talk about your family or his son, what it is about it that makes it worse?

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: He's a very introverted person. He doesn't talk much. Also, he lost so much. After the earthquake, we were all keeping a close eye on him out of fear that he might be thinking about suicide or something like that.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: Now he thinks burning incense and praying to Buddha are useless -burning paper money, all those traditions. Because our parents were really good people. They treated their friends well, treated their children well.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: My brother said if there really is a God, if there really is a Buddha, then people this good shouldn't have died. But what happened in the end? A disaster that deprived him of everything. So all the prayer, all the worship, it can't make his sadness go away.

Wang Dan tells me her brother's grief is so strong he couldn't bring himself to visit the gravesite on a mountainside near Dujiangyan on tomb-sweeping day, or Qing Ming, when families honor their dead. He can't bear any mention of his son, or his parents. He's deleted all the family pictures on his computer and cell phone. Rising from this profound sadness, though, comes a ray of hope. Fu Guanyu and Wang Wei decided to have another child. She's pregnant. The baby is due next month.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: If the child is born healthy and stays healthy, it will be a great consolation for them.

Of course, the baby would never replace Wang Zilu, but it's a new start.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: Yes, it is a new start, and one that we hope will gradually mend their hearts.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken)

BLOCK: Wang Dan, thanks for talking to us. It's great to see you again. And please give our best to your brother and your sister-in-law, to Wang Wei and to Fu Guanyu.

Ms. WANG: (Mandarin spoken) Thank you.

BLOCK: Thank you, Wang Dan.

(Soundbite of music)

SIEGEL: You can hear Melissa's original story about the family and see photographs of them at npr.org.

NORRIS: And tomorrow, at 11 a.m. Eastern Time, Melissa and producer, Andrea Hsu, will be online for a live Web chat about their trip back to the earthquake region. If you want to know how you can participate, go to npr.org, and you'll find details.

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