May 12 marks the seventh anniversary of a catastrophic earthquake that struck Wenchuan county in Southwest China’s Sichuan province. At least 87,000 people were killed or declared missing in the disaster.
Lunchtime is the busiest for Yang Hejiang’s restaurant. People from all over the country come to see the rebuilding of the quake-stricken county and the people who remain, seven years after tragedy struck. Yang is the sole survivor of his family, and the trauma has had a lasting impact on his life. After the earthquake, everything had to be rebuilt from scratch.
“We created a better living environment with our own hands, the country gave us the house to live in but we need to work hard in the life if we want it to get better,” he said.
Yang has since remarried and now is father to two beautiful girls. Life seems to have restarted and come back to some sort of normal. With the small restaurant running, the family is also using their own apartment as a bed-and-breakfast for travelers. Yang’s wife is optimistic about their family business.
“I think, gradually, we will have more places to travel in Yingxiu, more highlights will attract more travelers to come here, they will like his peaceful environment, I hope our children will grow healthily,” she said.
The once destructed county is now a travel destination. The resilience and the strong hope for a better future ahead has certainly kept the local residents positive through grim times.
“I hope my hometown won’t have another disaster. I hope the mountains get greener, the polluted water cleaner and the smoggy sky more blue; it will give us peace in our hearts,” Yang said.
In 2009, the rebuilding process started, with the government issuing the overall plan for the Post-Wenchuan Earthquake recovery and reconstruction.
Yingxiu was the epicenter of the quake; other areas such as Wenchuan and Beichuan counties were also affected severely in 2008.
According to government data, $137 billion was spent on rebuilding quake-affected areas. Seven years after disaster struck, the psychological rebuilding process is still ongoing, but there is hope, at least from some locals, that things will one day seem normal again.