I met the Chengdu taxicab driver He Ming six months after the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake. We talked as he drove. Mr. He told me about his experiences during the quake. Like many Chengdu taxi drivers, he had an (illegal) 460 MHz VHF radio transceiver in his cab that he used to stay in touch with his fellow cab drivers. Mr. He told me that after the quake the taxicab drivers coordinated by radio and decided that the Chengdu district of Dujiangyan, located next to the mountains, has been hardest hit. Hundreds of taxi cab drivers headed out to Dujiangyan to pick up injured people for the downtown hospitals and headed back towards downtown, their emergency blinkers flashing.
He Ming told me he was a poet and had written about that experience. Mr. He sent his poem as a text message to my cellphone.
Here is my translation:
The Heartfelt Lifesaving Effort
— that Unforgettable Afternoon and Evening of May 12
by He Ming
Worried by the screams of our compatriots we get on the road
Head up into the mountains from where the landslides are coming
To the crazily tilted buildings
Towards lives trapped beneath the rubble
Towards the the crying infants
We volunteer without regrets
Charging into the rubble
In union there is strength
We cannot give a thought to the dangers on the road
as the great catastrophe rumbles the very earth
Love propels the cars forward at full speed
Thousands of anxious taxi drivers
Their emergency blinkers reflecting their shock
Blinking all the way from Dujiangyan to Chengdu!
A lifesaving trip.
paved with our love
A trip of hope
We earnestly pray for blessings and protection on
this lifesaving trip that shook our very souls.
A Chengdu newspaper, the Huaxi Dushibao, wrote about the taxicab volunteers on May 22, 2008. That front page story is still online (via the People’s Daily website) at http://unn.people.com.cn/GB/14748/7241608.html
He Ming died a year later in a traffic accident.
The poem in the original Chinese I copied below.