Remembering 5.12

Written by Julen Madariaga on May 12th, 2009

It was exactly one year ago, almost to the minute. It was Monday, and we had started our meeting at 2pm in the 22nd floor of the client’s headquarters. About an hour later, in the middle of heated negotiations, there was an awkward silence.  It took a long moment before we understood what was making us dizzy. One of the slick managers of the client went first:  he sprang up, kicked his chair back and screamed: “Get the hell out of here!”

Panic spreads fast in the crowds. In the emergency stairs people screamed and treaded on each other as they desperately prodded at their cell phones. The crammed staircase felt like it would fall on us any moment. It is a sense of utter helplessness of man against the forces of nature. It feels terrifying and it feels unfair. 

Ten minutes later the building was empty, and thousands of employees were safely reassembled on the People’s Square. It was a sunny day in Shanghai.  We smoked cigarettes and, to get over our nervousness, we turned to joking about the reaction of our client. Only later the messages started coming in, and we understood we had just had a slight taste of the tragedy that took place 1,000 miles to the West.

Chinayouren’s thoughts today are with the brave people of Sichuan.

On the internet, the best and most tasteful homage to the victims I have seen today is the one on the taobao site. You have to be used to the exuberant front pages of  the Chinese internet to fully appreciate the impression. Only a little candle on the right side of the logo is in yellow colour, but you will have to follow the link to see it, as animations didn’t come out in the picture.



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Comments so far ↓

  1. May

    I came back to Beijing from a travel to my hometown in Sweden at that very date last year. Against all better knowledge, some time after lunch, I lay down on my bed to take a nap even though it’s better to stay awake to fix jetlag.

    I was half dreaming, half awake, when I heard a strange, rhythmical, clinking noise from the living room. As I thought somebody was in the apartment, I quickly got out of bed and had a look. Three lamps were swinging heavily and hit each other, which caused the sound. This was on the 15th floor, so it must have been very strong movements.

    It took quite some while before I realized the extent of the quake. Actually, strangely enough, I don’t remember if there were reports about the epicenter that evening? I remember Hu Jintao went down to the quake area the day after, and that rescue work had already begun by then.

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