On June 2, ten farmer volunteers named by Internet users as “The Best Sichuan Earthquake Rescue Crew” finally returned to their hometown of Ju County, Shandong Province, reuniting with their worried family members after 20 long days away.
After the Sichuan earthquake, these ten farmers rode on their tricycle for four days and four nights, traveling over 1,800 miles and encountering dangers on the road, to arrive at the disaster areas. Their story was posted on the Tianya forum (tianya.cn) and was read by over 300,000 people and commented on by 4,000 people within a week. Their story moved readers, received admiration, and even inspired ten people to compose songs and write poetry.
According to Qilu Evening News, on May 12, Liu Zhongming of Dongzaohu Village in Ju County burst into tears as he watched the report about the Sichuan earthquake. That night he gathered his family and friends to discuss matters concerning the Sichuan disaster relief. Liu said, “We don't have much money, but we have strength, the ability to save others, and no problem doing physical labor. Let's go save the people of Sichuan!” The air was suddenly filled with responses after Li finished his sentence.
They found a map and roughly calculated that the distance from Shandong to Sichuan was over 1,200 miles and can be reached riding a tricycle. “This decides it!” Liu and nine others firmed their resolve and embarked to accomplish a great task.
At 1 a.m. on May 14, the tricycle silently left Dongzaohu Village. The group had no experience with long distance traveling and were unfamiliar with the route, so they relied on the map and asking for directions. Because the road conditions were poor, the vehicle shook the whole way, and those sitting in the tricycle remained awake throughout the whole journey.
Since the tricycle couldn't go on the highway, they could only travel on the federal highway or provincial roads, paying at many road and bridge tolls along the way. There was an average of one toll booth every 30 miles. The travelers ate fried pancakes when hungry and drank water when thirsty. Like this, they traveled for three days and three nights with ten people crammed in the small compartment of the tricycle, finally reaching Sichuan 1,200 miles later. But getting there wasn't easy. Along the way, they encountered many misunderstandings and patronizing. Many people ridiculed their tattered tricycle, and others accused them of claiming to help the earthquake relief to avoid paying at tolls. No one believed that these farmers were sincerely going to Sichuan to be volunteers.
Around 4 p.m. on May 17, they finally reached Guangyuan, one of the Sichuan disaster areas. The next day, they rushed toward the Mianyang disaster area, and then they were sent to the Huangtu rescue station in An County. In the following few days, these ten farmer brothers put up tents at Huangtu and transported relief materials. They had never erected any tents before, but they learned through reading diagrams. Two days later, over 200 tents were neatly propped up.
Afterwards, they occupied themselves with laying down water pipes, building restrooms, and transporting commodities. Every day, these men only ate dried ramen noodles and slept crammed on the tricycle so that more disaster-stricken people could have a place.
“They did not do anything earthshaking. They just knew to work, and they worked on anything they could. It was simple. … They got out of bed every morning at 3 a.m. to clean the trash and organize the food that needed to be distributed. They didn't eat till after 10 p.m. every night. When the vehicle that delivers food comes, they always ran to the front.”
As time went on, the story of the ten fellow villagers spread at the rescue station. Almost no one dared to believe their story when they first heard it. It is not until they personally went to see the farmers that they gasped and gave thumbs up.
After seeing that they only gnaw on instant noodles and drink mineral water, tears rolled down the cheeks of one rescue staff member as he ran to town to buy 100 steamed buns and a few stir-fried dishes for them. Xiaotuo, a volunteer from Henan Province, visited them daily and said, “They are the real heroes. Compared to them, how can what I do measure up?”
Shan Yuqiang, a volunteer form Dalian City, named the ten farmers “The Best Sichuan Earthquake Rescue Crew” at 11 p.m. on May 23 on the Tianya forum. The story inspired and moved people, and received many responses. Various well-known forums also reprinted the story.
Internet readers were moved by their simple and innocent spirit. People claimed them as “the pride of Shandong people!” “Great!” “Sentimental, righteous, and the backbone of the nation.” Their tricycle has even been named “the best rescue vehicle.” Many claim that their actions have moved 1.3 billion Chinese people.
Internet user “dangerlam” wrote, “I am from Beichuan and go to school in Shanghai. My father died during the earthquake, so I am homeless. I have always liked Shandong people—they are straightforward and uphold justice. This earthquake was able to link the brothers and sisters in Shandong with us. It's truly fate.”
Another person wrote, “After reading the post, I silently stood up and bowed in front of the computer. No words are enough to describe their simplicity, honor, and kindness.”