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Tiananmen Square Massacre
“Come on man everyone’s doing it,” my friend Ming Yao repeated for at least the tenth time that day.
“Dude, we’re going to protest against the government? Won’t we get killed or something?” I countered as we walked through the hallway to our next class, math. On the way we passed signs bearing the words, “Be There or Be Square” or “Stand up for your rights!”
Wang Dan, the supposed leader of the Beijing protests walked by and everyone in the surround area started clapping their hands together. This is sick, I thought. When I turned around Ming was clapping too so I pulled him by the collar into our science class.
“Late again Li? And you too Ming?” Said our teacher Mrs. Zedong. She wore a body hugging knitted top and white gloves and was getting ready for our next lab. At 6’2” she towered over everyone in the class and scrutinized us carefully.
“It wasn’t our fault Mrs. Zedong, we got delayed by Wang.” Ming looked like a dear caught in the headlights after seeing the glare on her face.
“What? Oh.” She seemed to look nervous has she ordered us to go sit down. It seemed as if she would want to go to the protests if she was a little younger. Ming took his seat at the back of the class and immediately pulled out his Gameboy and started to play Pac-Man. Sheesh, I rolled my eyes. He was addicted by that game and wouldn’t stop until he got past level 5. Several hours later, after several boring classes we finally managed to make it out of the metal death trap we called college.
“You do realize you have to make up your mind before tomorrow? I’m going whether you do or not.” I responded to Ming’s question with a shrug. The truth was I didn’t know if it was worth it. Would there be any change? Would I die? Or would the government fail to retaliate and make us disperse out of boredom?
“Just give me a day or two to decide.” I cringed, as he burst into a firework of insults and reminders of it starting tomorrow. “Just give me some time alone ok!” I yelled, as I ran back to my apartment leaving him gaping.
The next day, the news anchors weren’t able to say all they wanted in the hour they received. The school was near empty. Restaurants and clubs lost all of their customers. What more can I say? Tiananmen Square was filled with anti communist protesters nonstop for the next week. Yet night after night I slept in my own bed while hundreds, even thousands, slept on the cold stone ground. Thinking about Ming and the rest of my fellow classmates spurred me on to finally join them ten days after the start of the continuous protesting of the mass mob.
It took me quite a while to find Ming that day. Everyone in the square looked the same as the person standing next to them because they were fighting for the same thing. When we talked he didn’t say anything about our argument 2 weeks before. Instead we talked about the consequences of doing this, and the reactions that would take place. The next day we learned what those reactions were. China had declared martial law. It had the right to send its military into Tiananmen Square at any moment and crush us. However, no one left. We all came here knowing that whatever happened didn’t matter to us.
In the future I called the following day doomsday but at that time it was just a regular day. Well it was until the tanks came. Some of our scouts came back and reported that the Chinese army was coming. Almost everyone panicked. Cowards disappeared. Fighters stood. There were still thousands left in the square. In the distance we spotted tanks followed by men followed by more tanks. The closest unit was an all tank one. That was when the “Unknown Rebel” made his move.
To everyone else he was just a man in a typical business man’s attire. But to himself he was probably as much of a protagonist as any one of us. He crossed the street ten feet in front of the first tank but stopped half way through. The tank stopped. The driver failed to shoot him down. Instead he made a turn toward the left side to slip around. The man walked in front of him and stopped. You could tell that the tank operator was in a dilemma. He turned to the right. The man walked in front and stopped. At that moment I realized that the man knew he was going to die. He was going to sacrifice his own life for countless others just like the rest of us. His next move was unexpected. We all gasped as he jumped onto the lead tank and had a conversation with the “enemy”. As I heard later, the fellow had questioned the driver asking him why he was doing this to his people. It took five bystanders to pull him off and get him absorbed into the crowd. Unfortunately, the tanks continued on their way.
Ten minutes later, once we had all settled down, the first shot rang out. I saw a student fall, and then all hell broke loose. The “Goddess of Democracy” was shattered by a tank. Students ran for their lives as the monolithic statue fell upon them. I looked around for Ming but couldn’t find him. But when I did it was anything but a joyful experience. He was laying face up with blood gushing out of a hole in his neck. He refused to respond to anything I said or to anything happening around him. I was too strong to cry but I carried his limp form around the side of a building and laid him there. As I stood there alone, separated from the death and destruction all around me, the rebellion broke and students dispersed. I was pushed along with friends and strangers, with old and young until we were a safe distance away.
The next day, the death toll was in the newspaper. It read 400-500 but any eyewitness there knew it was over 1,000. However, only two things stood out to me. The death of my friend Ming Yao, and the fate of the “Unknown Rebel” who stared down the barrel of a cannon. The Tiananmen man.