Tulsa Chinese Teacher Worries About Homeland

Tuesday, May 13th 2008, 6:04 pm
By: News On 6

A Chinese teacher at Booker T. Washington High School is anxiously watching the news on the earthquake.  Her hometown is right in the middle of the damage.  The News On 6's Steve Berg reports Qiao Zhang grew up in the city of Chengdu which is only about 50 miles from the quake's epicenter.

It is a city with many high-rises and 10 million people, including her parents.

Qiao Zhang was as surprised as anybody when she got word of the earthquake.

"When I came to school, I found a message left by my husband to tell me there was an earthquake in China in my home city," said Qiao Zhang.

Her husband is in Chongqing far enough away that he told her there were only a few rumbles and some cracked picture frames.  But, in Chengdu, where her parents live, it was much more serious.  In fact, the report is there were 20,000 cell phone towers that were toppled over.

"Yesterday I lost contact with them because the telephone couldn't get through, so I'm very worried," said Qiao Zhang.

Finally, in the middle of the night, she says she was able to get an e-mail from them telling her they were okay.

"My mother told me this is the most terrible experience that she has because she has never experienced this before," said Qiao Zhang.

The Sichuan province is near the Himalayas and has many fault lines, but the last major earthquake there reportedly happened in the 1930's, long before Qiao was born.  She says that has caught many people off-guard.

"The buildings shake and sway, but some of them didn't know this was an earthquake because they have never experienced this," said Qiao Zhang.

Qiao is nearing the end of a two-year exchange program, teaching Chinese language and culture at Booker T. Washington.  Now, she's even more eager to get back home.

"I want to help them.  I want to do something for the people.  I feel very sorry for the people there," said Qiao Zhang.

Even for people who weren't hurt, there are still many problems.  In "Chengdu, it's being reported that many areas have lost power and running water.