A netizen with the online name Xiaojiu posted the following photo essay on Chinese pro-military bbs tiexue.com. He recorded his volunteer relief adventure in the quake zone, and his experiences as one of the first volunteers with the soldiers doing rescue work. Selectively translated by M.J.:
These old women kept their gaze on the PLA soldiers marching forward. When I casually glanced at them, I found that their cloudy eyes are already welling up with tears.
Ten past ten at night, by the river. I was resting with a few soldiers. By this time none of us had cigarettes. Most people’s cigarettes got wet while trekking through water, the rest were used up.
The road is too difficult to walk. A short rest accompanied by a cigarette is probably the best pick-me-up.
Here, we all smoked one cigarette, passing it around and taking turns.
Not yet at our destination, and it’s already past ten at night.
At eleven, we finally reached Qingping District. At the fork in the road that led to Qingping Ling mine and Qingping village government, I finally resolved to take out my camera for a few pictures.
When we arrived, we all thought that we had arrived at our destination…
I was taking off my socks and wringing the water from there – I can probably grow fish in my shoes at this point.
There is a stretch of the road that is almost like a swamp, we pretty much crawled through it.
But we didn’t know that waiting for us is an even longer road – and we have to find our way feeling around in the dark.
Those of us who went to Qingping Ling mine arrived at around 12. For those of us who went on the path to the village government, we understood on the second day that they arrived at 5:50 in the morning.
Worthy of note is that we did not rest for more than five minutes, walked on with a brisk pace, and our path was half-collapsed…
At 12:00, the troops I had been following reached Qingping Ling mine.
When we arrived, those receiving us at the mine gave an explosive round of applause. The trapped people went back and forth to convey the message that the PLA they had been waiting for had finally arrived.
From three in the afternoon until twelve at night. When opening up the roads, I have no idea how far we’d walked; I can only estimate conservatively: if every hour we traveled 5 kilometers, and walked for more than 9 hours, a simple calculation gives me 50 plus miles. So, the estimate is that they troops walked more than 40 kilometers, or more accurately, climbed more than 40 kilometers.
When we went in, they started basic medical treatment for the injured.
I went to bed at two in the morning.
People here are basically stuck. Only extremely strong and bold people can get out of the mountains. The situation is stable here. People felt sense of hope when they saw troops.
When people know I am the only volunteer, everyone including the mine leaders came to shake my hand…
I am touched.
Discussion of emergency rescue. One group digs for a temporary restroom, one group goes to search for people inside the rubble, one group searches for food.
There are some things that I cannot distribute here, both out of respect for the dead, and also to avoid appearing overly extreme here…
After digging out the body, disinfecting the soldier. Disinfecting means simply washing with water, and putting some alcohol on the wound. Oh, our soldiers!