This has been a week of grief and helplessness.
This has been a week of enormous courage, compassion and of help.
This has been a week when humans were thwarted by nature, yet the human spirit shone brighter than ever.
This has been a week when geographic or demographic differences vanished and we all felt the pain and suffering of the Wenchuan earthquake victims.
We have all been drenched in tears over the loss of so many brothers and sisters. The wailing of mothers and fathers, the sight of dust-covered bodies of teenagers, cold and pale, pulled from the debris, haunt us day and night. The chilly rain, which exacerbated the misery, serves as a manifestation of our collective mourning.
This week, we are all Sichuanese, living in the fear of aftershocks, and in fading hopes of finding more survivors. Whenever one more survivor was extracted from a flattened building, it was an occasion for joy.
This week, we all want to reach out and touch those affected and say: "We're with you. We'll always be with you - through thick and thin."
Yet, time is running out for those still trapped underneath tons of rubble. Can they hold on without food and water, with possibly injuries? What despair must have filled their hearts? So close to life, yet unreachable.
What despair do the parents feel? Are they capable of shedding more tears? Should they cling on to a slim ray of hope and wait for a miracle, or should they give up and be surprised by a miracle if it happens?
And what despair and frustration must be gnawing at the rescuers? They are giving their utmost, yet fate determines the life or death of a person more than their blood and sweat. An ill-placed beam, a cracked slab, a fallen wall, the difficulty of moving rescue equipment through damaged roads, the shortage of power to drive them - they are the Grim Reaper personified, constantly flashing its menacing glare.
This week is for mourning. Tears have a therapeutic power. The teary glint in Premier Wen Jiabao's eyes has cleansed our souls and created a bonding and catharsis that I've never seen before. We feel so pure, as if the world were devoid of lesser concerns such as the pursuit of money.
This week, life seems so vulnerable, fate so capricious, and everything else so trivial.
This week, we desperately want our prayers to be answered by a benign and responsive god or supernatural force. Spare the children, spare the elderly, spare everyone who was living a normal and peaceful life. Why treat us so cruelly?
This week, love and humanity rise above the rubble of destruction.
After this week - long after this week, when the total toll is tallied, tears wiped dry, and our wounds healed, we'll take time to thank those who rushed to the worst hit areas in the massive rescue operation, those who risked their own lives to help when help was most needed, and those whose kindness and compassion lit up a mundane, harsh world.
And we'll explore whether the science of forecasting earthquakes could be improved and probe why buildings in rural towns and schools were more prone to collapse.
And we'll help survivors rebuild their homes.
A natural calamity of such magnitude has brought out the best in us. Let's use it for the good of all.
(China Daily 05/17/2008 page9)