Monday, January 11, 2010

Chapter 6: The Woman Left Behind

Mei-jun passed through Chun'an's city gates, securely cradling her baby to her chest. She arrived at the Hangzhou train station, a departure point mobbed with refugees desperately jamming themselves onto the next departing train; people were strapped onto the train roof, suspended from the doors, crushed against the windows, crouched under the seats, crammed on the aisles. The train was headed towards Guangzhou, but stopped mid route at a small desolate town -- the train had run out of coal. To keep the train moving, military officers appealed to the passengers for donations, collecting money to replenish their fuel supply.

The train continued to Guangzhou again, but not for long. The train tracks before them were twisted and needed to be realigned. Everyone must wait. While waiting, Mei-jun narrated, the mother sitting next to her, a woman who on the entire journey tightly held her four, five year old child, said to her little boy, "Darling, wait here, okay? Don't move."

The woman crawled over the other passengers and climbed out of the train car, walking a fair distance along the tracks. She squat behind a small shrub to relieve herself. Finished, she straightened up and headed back to her train car, but it was too late. The train was moving again.

"All we could do was stare in horror as this woman futilely tried to chase the train down. She called and ran after us, and upon realization that the train would not slow down, was reduced to crying and stumbling along the train tracks. Her little boy in the train car howled for his mother, but no one had any power to make the train stop..."

"Do you remember what she looked like?" I asked.

"I remember the image of her trying to chase down the train, hair disheveled, flying in all directions..."

Mei-jun opened her mouth to say something and then stopped herself. Then she started again, "I often wonder how that child is doing today."

At Hengshan (衡山), Hunan Province, Mei-jun and her two escorting soldiers protected her baby from the throng of people as they pushed their way off the train.

Thinking back to the woman left behind on the train tracks, Mei-jun decided that she would entrust the baby cradled in her arms with his grandmother at Hengshan. The surrounding panic and chaos left her deeply worried that her child could accidentally be crushed to death or die of an contagious disease on the poorly ventilated train cars. Mei-jun saw with her own eyes the number of infants and elderly that never made it to the next stop.

Yingyang (應揚) was passed along to his grandmother at the Hengshan station and watched his mother depart. He was too young to know how to even wave back.

Mei-jun continued down south until she finally reached Guangzhou. Her husband, leading a troop of military police, were stationed at Guangzhou's Tianhe Airfield (廣州天河機場).


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