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Quake Survivor Dreams of Teaching in Hometown

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A year after the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed her hometown in southwest China, Bai Lin is hitting the books in memory of her 1,000 dead schoolmates and in pursuit of her goals.

Bai, 19, who is studying at a prep school in the northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, wants to be a teacher at her alma mater Beichuan Middle School.

"I want to major in Chinese literature," said Bai, who will become a freshman at the Northern University of Nationalities in Yinchuan in September.

Until the 8.0-magnitude earthquake shook her home province last May 12, Bai, an ethnic Qiang, planned to study economics and find a well-paid job at a foreign company.

Then came the quake. "I saw how our teachers risked their lives to save students," said Bai.

One teacher stood firm at the classroom door, waiting for her students to escape first. "She leaned against the doorframe and pushed the slowest girl out, and then she disappeared in the rubble," Bai recalled.

Bai jumped from her third-floor classroom window and hurt her leg. Despite the pain, she was inspired by her teachers and joined the rescue work.

"It was a horrible scene, with so many people buried in the ruins, moaning and crying for help," she recalled.

The next day, Premier Wen Jiabao visited the quake site. "He held my hand and told me to cherish life," said Bai.

Inspired by Wen's words, she worked even harder to save trapped classmates and care for the injured, some of whom were staying at a local stadium.

For six days, she lost contact with her family because her home also collapsed and her parents were nowhere to be seen. Her father spotted her on TV on May 18, when Bai Lin was invited to a charity program broadcast live on Central China Television.

After a happy reunion, Bai and her surviving classmates moved to Mianyang City to prepare for the national college entrance exam. "I wanted desperately to enter college and never gave up hope," she said. "But the quake was like a lingering nightmare. From time to time, I hid myself in the washroom to cry a bit before I could concentrate on my work."

Bai's exam results weren't good enough. She turned down offers from Hong Kong and Singaporean universities and chose a college prep course in Yinchuan. "The earthquake taught me to be strong and independent."

Her new classmates knew nothing of her heroic past until Xinhua reporters followed her to the campus this week. "I don't take pride in my past; nor do I need other people's sympathy."

She has a tight schedule every day, studying Chinese literature, linguistics, English, mathematics and history. She spends her spare time reading extensively, going to the gym and practicing performing arts with the school troupe. "I'm preparing in every way to be a good teacher."

She hopes to live up to her teacher's expectations. "Before I left my hometown, my teacher told me to work hard, study what my dead classmates were unable to study and enjoy the life they had no chance to live."

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2009)

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