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An orphan chokes back sobs

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James Reynolds | 19:34 UK time, Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Nobody pays a reporter to weep. We're not sent to disaster zones to collapse and break down with emotion. You couldn't do your job that way. But, equally, it's almost impossible not to be moved by what we've all seen here in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Today, at a survivors' camp set up in a stadium in Mianyang, I met a 14-year-old boy trying his best not to break down. Li Tangmo and his 8-year-old sister, Qingyi, survived the earthquake - but their parents did not.

They've been brought to the stadium by an uncle. They sleep on thin cotton mattresses on the ground, jammed up against other survivors. Qingyi is too young to understand what's happened to them. When we spoke to her she was playing happily with her pencil case. But her elder brother is old enough to take it all in. He sat on the ground with a blank expression and glassy eyes.

We asked him what would happen to him and his sister.

"I want us to stay with my aunt and uncle," he said, "but if they don't want us, we will go." And then he choked a sob, trying to stay composed.

Later on, he took his sister to a makeshift school in the stadium grounds. They sat in the back row, looking lost. Everyone was asked to stand for a minute's silence. Qingyi looked straight ahead, not knowing what was going on. Tangmo kept his head down and fought to stifle his sobs in front of his sister. It was hard not to admire his bravery.


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