By Julia Hurst
As a part of an economic development and humanitarian mission to China, five members of the National Lieutenant Governors Association visited China’s Sichuan Province where more than 69,000 Chinese people died as a result of the May 12, 2008, earthquake. That earthquake measured 8.0 magnitude on the Richter scale.
“Thank you with heartfelt gratitude for coming to investigate the tragedy which has befallen this area,” said Mianyang Vice Mayor Wan Lianpo. The Sichuan Province suffered more than $450 billion in damage and lost more than 7,000 school classrooms, according to The New York Times.
The delegation was driven to Dujiangyan, the city closest to the epicenter of the May earthquake. Most of the city’s buildings—90 percent of them—were damaged and more than 100 buildings collapsed. The city suffered severe damage and after the earthquake was covered in a resulting mud slide. Days prior to the delegation’s visit, the area had an aftershock earthquake rating 4.5 on the Richter scale and the day after the visit another aftershock hit, reaching 4.2 on the Richter scale.
The lieutenant governors visited Leigu Township where the mayor spoke of plans to rebuild. He said communities and families had received rebuilding loans from the government, but the loans were not always enough. Building supplies often run short since so much rebuilding is occurring simultaneously, he said. Long-term community plans include building a memorial of the tragedy and using the surrounding mountain as the natural resource it is, to promote hiking and tourism.
The delegation’s final stop in the area was to a school system temporarily housing and teaching more than 1,000 children, many of whom had lost family members, teachers and classmates to the earthquake. These students also live at their temporary school. The delegation agreed to work to set up a pen pal system and provide other assistance to the surviving students.
As a sign of respect, Connecticut Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele and NLGA Chair Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton presented to Lianpo, the Mianyang vice mayor, letters of condolence from the Asian Pacific American Coalition of Connecticut, the North East Wisconsin Chinese Association and the Wisconsin Chinese Association for Fine Arts.
—Julia Hurst is the executive director of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, a CSG affiliate.