Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Road to Heaven by Unknown Chinese Author

The Road to Heaven

My Child, hurry
Hold hold tightly to your Mother's hand.
The road to heaven
Is too dark
Mother is afraid
That you hit your head
Hold hold tightly to your Mother's hand
Let Mother walk with you

I am afraid
The road to heaven
Is too dark
I cannot see your hand
The wall collapsed
And snatched the sunlight away
I cannot see
The loving expression in your eyes again

My Child
You can go on ahead
The road before you
Has no sorrow anymore
It holds neither endless homework
Nor your father’s fist
You have to remember
My face and your father’s face
We want to walk this road together in our next life

Don't worry
The road to heaven is very crowded
But here are my classmates and friends
We all say
Don’t cry
Every mother is our mother as well
Every child, is our child as well
In the days without me
Give your love to the children who live

Don’t cry
Tears cannot light up the road
Our road
Let us walk slowly, Mother
I will remember your face and father’s face
I also want to walk this road together in our next life
--By Unknown Chinese Author, Translation adapted from Alex Tang and Blue Sky Tony

I wanted to post something about the earthquake we had today here in California. It was a 5.8 on the Richter scale, and pretty exciting and a little scary. There is no damage to our homes, and everyone is safe.

As I was searching for an earthquake poem, I stumbled across this one written by somebody in China after the SiChuan earthquake. I couldn't find an attribution (and neither could the New York Times). The best I can tell, it was first posted in English on this blog. The New York Times had a different translation, and since I fix awkward language in translations for a living, I thought it would be okay for me to cobble the best parts of the two together into my own version.

I hesitated about posting it, because it is so terribly sad. It's almost unbearable to think about the parents frantically trying to dig through the rubble of the schools where their only child was buried (and it's made even worse by knowing that almost all children in China are only children). At the same time, it's a beautiful poem. One brief moment in time capturing all the emotion, the regret, the hope, and the grief. This is what poetry is about. This is what it's for. This is why I love it so much.

On a lighter note, I thought that a good way to share our experience of the earthquake would be to share my answers to the Did You Feel It? questionnaire on the USGS site. I really like that site because the computers that are monitoring the seismographs post information (like location and magnitude) about the Earthquake immediately, so you don't have to wait for news outlets to find the information and write a story. I also like how they have a map of the intensity ratings that the internet survey gives them. For a quake like this, they can have several hundred thousand surveys filled out, submitted and analyzed within hours of the event. Each survey also has a space for personal stories that can be read later. I think this is a FABULOUS way to get scientific data from the people directly affected immediately after an event happens when the experience is most clear in their minds. I wonder if there's a way to take this model and apply it to other events (like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, rock concerts, News stories like 9-11 etc).

Anyway, here's the survey and my answers:
Your location when the earthquake occurred:
Street Address: 8882 Bainford Dr
Nearest Cross Street: Magnolia and Adams
City: Huntington Beach
County: Orange
State/Possession: California
Country: United States
*Zip code: 92646

While answering all these questions is optional, we encourage you to fill out as many as possible so we can provide a more accurate intensity estimate.

What was your situation during the earthquake?
No answer
X Inside
In stopped vehicle
In moving vehicle

If you were inside please select the type of building or structure:
No building
X Single Family Home or Duplex
Apartment Building
Office Building/School
Mobile Home with Permanent Foundation
Trailer or Recr. Vehicle with No Foundation
If other, please describe:

Were you asleep during the earthquake?
X No
Slept through it
Woke up

Did you feel the earthquake? (If you were asleep, did the earthquake wake you up?)
X Yes

Did others nearby feel the earthquake?
No answer/Don't know/Nobody else nearby
No others felt it
Some felt it, but most did not
Most others felt it, but some did not
X Everyone or almost everyone felt it

Your experience of the earthquake:

How would you best describe the ground shaking?
No description
Not felt
X Strong

About how many seconds did the shaking last?

How would you best describe your reaction?
No answer/Don't remember
No reaction/Not felt
Very little reaction
X Somewhat frightened
Very frightened
Extremely frightened

How did you respond? (Select one)
No answer/Don't remember
XTook no action
Moved to doorway
Dropped and covered
Ran outside
If other, please describe:

Was it difficult to stand or walk?
X No answer/Did not try

Earthquake effects:

Did you notice the swinging/swaying of doors or hanging objects?
No answer/Did not look
X Yes, slight swinging
Yes, violent swinging

Did you notice creaking or other noises?
No answer/Did not pay attention
Yes, slight noise
X Yes, loud noise

Did objects rattle, topple over, or fall off shelves?
No answer/No shelves
Rattled slightly
X Rattled loudly
A few toppled or fell off
Many fell off
Nearly everything fell off

Did pictures on walls move or get knocked askew?
No answer/No pictures
X Yes, but did not fall
Yes, and some fell

Did any furniture or appliances slide, tip over, or become displaced?
No answer/No furniture
X No

Was a heavy appliance (refrigerator or range) affected?
No answer/No heavy appliance
X No
Yes, some contents fell out
Yes, shifted by inches
Yes, shifted by a foot or more
Yes, overturned

Were free-standing walls or fences damaged?
No answer/No walls
X No
Yes, some were cracked
Yes, some partially fell
Yes, some fell completely

If you were inside, was there any damage to the building? Check all that apply.
X No damage
Hairline cracks in walls
A few large cracks in walls
Many large cracks in walls
Ceiling tiles or lighting fixtures fell
Cracks in chimney
One or several cracked windows
Many windows cracked or some broken out
Masonry fell from block or brick wall(s)
Old chimney, major damage or fell down
Modern chimney, major damage or fell down
Outside wall(s) tilted over or collapsed completely
Separation of porch, balcony, or other addition from building
Building permanently shifted over foundation

If you know the type of building (wood, brick, etc.) and/or your location (which story, basement, penthouse, etc.) please indicate here:
ground floor of frame house

Additional Comments:

I heard what sounded like loud wind coming from the east side of the house, and expected a tiny shake when the gust hit the house and chimney, only, it wasn't wind. The whole house shook in a generally east to west pattern for a long time -- like we kept getting hit by ripples in a pond. I was worried that things would fall off the shelves, but Grandpa had secured the more precious nick-nacks long ago. His model airplanes that hang from the ceiling swayed violently, and the pendulum on the cuckoo clock and Grandfather Clock stopped ticking (I had to restart them when the earthquake was over. Grandma was dozing off, but woke up and was a little frightened. We were surprised at how long it lasted, and had time to comment to each other about that while it was still happening. We thought about taking cover, but since standing is so tough for Grandma, we just stayed put. We had time to comment on how long it was lasting a couple of times. My baby looked a bit confused while it was happening, but quickly forgot about it once it was over.


  1. What a sad, but beautiful poem. So many children were killed in that earthquake. This is beautifully written.

    I'm so glad we have the Gospel.

    Your earthquake stuff was very interesting. How great that there is a site like that. I'm glad you were with your grandma when it happened.

  2. Whoa.
    Great survey
    That really helped us get a sense of your experience.

  3. Glad you were kept safe during the quake! You're not in Amherst anymore, Dorothy!!! :)

  4. interesting...i remember an earthquake in our area. Dawn and Cara were small and I thought they had gotten up from their naps and had snuck behind the couch and were kicking it...i got up to chastise them but there was no one. wierd, I thought. then at 6pm the news mentioned a quake. it really is an odd sensation.