The City of Sorrow
Reflections from a daughter of Wuhan, China.
On March 18, Wuhan, the epicenter of the
initial coronavirus outbreak, reported
zero new cases of COVID-19 for first time
in almost two months. As I write this, the
Chinese government has announced that
the city’s lockdown will be partially lifted on April 8, marking a
significant milestone in Wuhan’s battle against COVID-19.
The dawn may be near, but the city is still mourning.
Born and raised in Wuhan, I left the city in 2009, when I transferred
to the University of Minnesota to study journalism. I’m currently
living in Vancouver with my husband and son, but I have watched this
pandemic unfold online.
From the outset, I was worried about my loved ones. I had daily
video calls with my family and joined local Wuhan volunteers’ efforts
by posting online help requests. I shared information over social
media, which has been a very powerful way to raise people’s awareness of what is really happening in Wuhan and directing people to
available resources and assistance.
I monitored the news online and watched as the noisy and busy
megacity was cut off from the national transportation network. All
the residents in the city, including my parents, friends, and relatives,
were required to stay at home unless they were buying groceries
or dumping their trash. My parents live just one block away from my
grandmother, but they could only have video calls with her.
As the crisis unfolded, my friends told me that they woke up every
day and checked the numbers of positive cases and deaths. “I sometimes feel very angry and disappointed at what’s going on,” one friend
texted me. “Other times I feel sad, powerless, and filled with grief.” I
didn’t know how to respond or cheer her up.
Among the 50,000 infected cases in Wuhan, over 3,000 families
experienced the loss of one or multiple loved ones. Some people didn’t even see them after they passed away, because the bodies
needed to be burnt as soon as possible to contain the virus.
A video literally went viral where a girl was weeping and running after a van carrying her mother’s body to the crematory.
Behind all the numbers of death, there were broken families
and broken hearts. Chang Kai, a Wuhan film director, his
parents, and sister all died from COVID-19 within two weeks.
His farewell letter was posted on social media while his wife
was still in critical condition. There were news reports of
people waiting in line for four hours in order to get their family
Still, I have been moved by so many acts of kindness and
love. Doctors and nurses from other provinces left their
homes to treat patients; people delivered groceries to
community members; volunteers collected protective supplies
and distributed them; businesses worked creatively to provide
services without face-to-face interaction.
Ultimately, the battle with COVID-19 will end and Wuhan and
others will celebrate that success. I hope survivors will reflect
and even repent by asking questions: Is there a way to ensure
information transparency in the beginning of a public health
crisis, so that the public can be aware and properly react? Can
we protect whistleblowers like doctors and reporters? Let’s try
to avoid repeating the same mistakes, learn from experience,
and love and help one another to get through the crisis.
Eva Wu (B.A. ‘11) is a cross-cultural communications professional. She lives in Vancouver.