Almost 20 years ago, an event happened in central/western Beijing that changed China and its people forever. Many people died in this event, but the exact number is not known, though the number could never compare to the number of deaths in the earthquake. I'm not saying if those people were right or wrong, I'm not going to guess as to what would have happened if those people would have won out, I believe in the government, but I also believe those people shouldn't have died.
This event had a greater impact than any other event that has taken place over the last 20 years, and probably beyond. Whether the Olympics or earthquake will displace it at the top is yet to be seen, but unlike those two events, this event isn't one that anybody talks about, at least not openly. It feels strange when talking to a coworker, a boss, and telling him where I'm living and his response being, "oh, I know that area, I had a friend who died there." What can you say, though, this city is still haunted with those ghosts.
I read yesterday that there are plans to build an Earthquake Museum in Sichuan and found that unusual. I sympathize with the need to remember what happened, but typically this would be done with some kind of memorial, not a museum. I can understand the desire to honor these people, especially in light of the current national sentiment, but at the same time, couldn't the money be spent helping the ones still living instead of honoring the dead? A memorial wall or statute costs much less than a big museum, and it is difficult to imagine what this museum really could have on display. It's about finding ways to remember the dead.
There is no way to publicly remember those who died on this day and the days that followed 19 years ago, there are no monuments, no museums, no public memorials, and those who try to honor them will find themselves in trouble. Whether their actions were proper, whether what they were fighting for was right, these things don't matter, what matters is what happened to them and what happened afterwords. If China didn't have that day, today would look different, the sentiment after the earthquake would have been different, the spirit of this city, on this day, would be different.
Remember the victims of the earthquake, but remember the victims of this day, and of Tangshan, and of the Cultural Revolution and everything else, for one victim is not less important than the other victim. Let us just hope monuments and museums will one day be built for these other victims.