We are out of Quarantine five days now – this is the first time I have to write my blog. It is a very busy time, and a strange time for all of us. After the long isolation, we came running from our rooms for the big meeting, very joyful to see and speak with each other again. Many people I don’t know smile to me and then we run and hug each other, all modesty is lost in the joy to touch another person again, knowing it is safe. But when we reach the auditorium, the feelings soon change.
We take a register, to know for sure who has survived, and there are many missing. We go to check their rooms, and find sometimes they are dead, sometimes missing with no word, sometimes leaving a note to say they will leave the quarantine and go to a hospital, so they do not need to die alone and we do not need to clear the body. I think again about my neighbour, and how lonely these people feel as they die. We put on the forum many resources and support for survivors, but there is little for those who find themselves dying. We say stay in your room, post to the forum to say you are infected and we will leave food and drink outside the door until it is no longer taken. There are few doctors, and the medical forum must spend most time on those who they can help. We begin a counselling forum, but have not enough with the skills to run it. We should talk more about supporting people after they know they will die. We have lost so many who played their part in setting up the quarantine so that we could survive – we owed them more than to let them die alone.
Less than three thousand now remain on the campus. There is no celebration. We spend the first day with meetings, listing what we must do. Ideas that give us so much hope on the forum become more difficult now that we ask for volunteers, knowledge, materials. The next three days we are counting everything we have, searching empty rooms for more food, getting equipment ready for the food and power projects. Also, we are digging graves, packing up the possessions of the dead, contacting the families if we can. Then we have the burials, in Jing Yuan meadow.
We try to do this properly, with respect, even though some of the remains are rotted down very far and there are ten people in one grave. Most sickness was reported and the bodies are taken from the freezer, but after two weeks when there are fewer people left, there are some that have died too far away from others for anybody to know. We have to wear our plastic suits and ventilator masks, and wrap them in a refuse sack, then clean and disinfect the room. We fill each grave, and then move to the other side of the meadow, by the monument to the PKU students who die in the revolution. Here, the friends of those buried make a speech, and we read messages from the families, and read a dedication to our friends and companions of the Quarantine Movement. This is said too many times, and the burial becomes a mechanical process. I try to make myself feel regret and grief for every person, but yesterday and today I attend burials from morning until it is dark, and soon I cannot feel anything, I am like a worker in the factory, the product moves along a line, the process has no meaning, I even become used to the smell. We change shifts after five burials, so I am sometimes filming, sometimes speaking, sometimes moving the bodies on a stretcher, and sliding them into the grave. Many people take short digging shifts – we have grown weak from poor food and much time indoors, apart from a few who exercise all the time of the quarantine. Now, we all have exhaustion and depression – too much fear and sadness for ourselves to grieve for others. But we take comfort in those still alive, and we go on living.