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Beichuan memories as thousands pay tribute

ON an overcast afternoon, which one survivor recalled was "exactly like one year ago," more than 100,000 survivors, volunteers and tourists gathered at the original Beichuan County seat to mark the one-year anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake.

The area was flooded with white and yellow chrysanthemums and fruit that mourners brought yesterday to honor the lost.

The new seat of Beichuan County, now in Anchan County, attracted more than 10,000 people who came to witness the ground-breaking of the new Beichuan High School. Among them were many parents who had lost their children.

Wang Liqiang, who is in his 40s, lost 15 family members in the earthquake, and was badly injured. His left foot was broken and he lost his left hand. He still finds difficulty walking but was determined to get there yesterday, even climbing on some sections of his route from Leigu Town.

"I'm lucky to be alive, thanks to the soldiers who rescued me," he said. "I hope my families get peace in heaven. The weather today is exactly like it was last year, before the quake hit and our house collapsed."

Twenty-year-old Beichuan native Jia Shunfa brought a large bunch of red roses in addition to incense and fruits. The roses were for his girlfriend, buried somewhere under the ruins.

"I was too poor to give her roses before, but I should have. I hope she receives the roses in heaven," he said.

Jia left from Mianyang City, a 30-minute drive away, at 7am yesterday but was on the road for two hours because of the volume of traffic. Many abandoned their vehicles and walked to Leigu Town's bus station where there was a shuttle service to the ruins.

One of them was Zhao Feijun, a volunteer from central China's Henan Province.

Zhao arrived as a volunteer in Beichuan County on May 23 last year and was returning to the area on his annual break.

"Although I volunteered here for over a month last year, I had never seen the old town closely, only from hills nearby. It's really shocking to get this close, I wish I could have stayed longer to help last year," he said.


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