Love flourishes amid the ruins of Sichuan – a year later

Yin Huajun and Zhu Yuncui are newly-weds and it shows. It’s the way Yuncui nestles into his shoulder, the pride with which they show their wedding pictures, and the self-consciousness as they nudge each other to speak.

Their home is a prefabricated cube, with metal walls and a concrete floor, in a camp for earthquake survivors. But a cosy ­armchair sits in a corner and a bright curtain screens off their bed. In their laps, the couple hold cherished possessions from the days before the disaster: framed photographs of his late wife and her late husband.

Today will mark the first anniversary of the 7.9-magnitude shock that tore through Sichuan, killing up to 90,000 and leaving 5 million people homeless. In Beichuan, where the couple lived, as few as 4,000 of the town’s 22,000 residents survived. Most were separated from those they loved – the quake struck in early afternoon, when families were scattered across fields, factories, shops and schools.

For both Huajun and Yuncui, it destroyed marriages spanning two decades. Yet eight months later, in January, they chose to wed again…

Sometimes she talks about her late husband and I mention my late wife. We trust each other,” said Huajun.

Both were away from their homes when the quake struck at 2.28pm on 12 May 2008. Struggling to his feet, Huajun looked across the valley to his house and saw only a mound of rubble.

Yuncui survived because she was slow to escape from the third floor of her factory. Seven women fleeing ahead of her disappeared as the staircase collapsed. Then the roof fell in, pinning her and her colleague under rubble.

“We screamed for help all afternoon but no one came. We had no idea how terrible it was outside,” she said…

I’m not going to try to condense a lovely and demanding tale. The whole wrenching realignment required of surviving a disaster like this is difficult enough to comprehend. In many ways, finding love afterwards is easier.

RTFA. Understand the cultural differences. Believe in the willingness to live and love and survive.