WENZHOU, Zhejiang – Hu Danqi was looking forward to her honeymoon in Wenzhou. Instead, the 26-year-old survivor of Saturday’s high-speed train crash is volunteering her help at a funeral home.
“I need to do whatever I can to help the families of the deceased here, and try my best to ease their pain,” she said.
The newlywed woman from Shanghai was on her way to her husband’s hometown of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, when the high-speed train she was on rear-ended another train that had stalled on the tracks, killing at least 39 people and injuring at least 190.
“The families of the deceased need good listeners who can empathize with their anger and sorrow, and as a witness and survivor of the accident, I think I can do the job,” said the creative industry professional who reads a lot about psychology.
Her legs were slightly bruised in the collision, and she walked out of the train in darkness.
She reached her husband on Sunday morning, and stayed home for the entire day.
“I was exhausted – it was such a terrible experience and I felt lucky that I survived it uninjured,” she said.
But the trauma for the families of the deceased passengers was tremendous.
Some family members from Fuzhou, Fujian province arrived at the funeral home in Wenzhou to identify the deceased on Monday morning. Upon arrival, they angrily questioned the efficiency of the rescue, and some families were so emotional they even shouted in the lobby of the usually silent funeral home.
“It is quite understandable because in such a circumstance everyone must find a way to vent – the deaths of their beloved in such a tragedy was too much to handle,” said Hu.
At 3 pm, the families went to the morgue.
“It was hard to control their sadness when they saw the bodies, you know, some bodies were severely damaged in the accident, and it was another trauma for the families to experience, seeing their beloved ones in the morgue, never responding to their cries,” she said.
Hu squatted beside a mother who lost her son in the tragedy and wiped away her tears. The mother could hardly speak, and her trembling hands covered her face.
Hu did not say a word, just squatted next to her. She offered the mother some drinking water and just stayed with her. Hu also cried with the grieving families.
“I just can’t help it, you know, seeing the grieving families immersed in pain,” she said.
More and more volunteers joined Hu. They worked in silence, offering a bottle of water or a handkerchief, and guided families to chairs.
“Every volunteer here is trying to play their role to make the families feel better,” said Hu.
At about 5 pm, professional counselors came to offer psychological support.
“We just waited and we observed their needs, and offered help wherever needed, even if the job was just running errands,” said Hu.
A volunteer organization called Firefly is making a contact list of family members for those who can neither be found at the morgue or the hospitals. More than 20 passengers were reported lost by their families and friends by Monday afternoon.
Volunteers are staying at the funeral home, hospitals and a placement center near the collision site to help families find lost ones.
Another volunteer organization called House of Love dispatched members in hospitals around the city to take care of injured passengers who are non-native of Wenzhou, and to look after the severely injured when their families take a short rest.
“Compared to the members of the volunteer groups, I am not very experienced, to be honest, because this is my first time being a volunteer, and I did not expect my first volunteering experience to be what it is like now – I always wanted to be a volunteer but I felt I had no opportunity. Now I realize it is not a matter of opportunity, it is a matter of love and help, it can be done as long as you care,” she said.