Sunrise From The Darkness This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   The typhoon struck abruptly and heavily. As soon as it began, garbage from the street engulfed my body and rain fell on me like bombs. I reached blindly for my mother, but felt no one.

"Wing Gee!" I heard my Cantonese name called. The next thing I knew, strong hands carried me into our apartment where my grandmother was praying to the gods with incense.

That seventh day of my one month stay in Hong Kong changed every good thought I had of my mother's homeland. The following morning, I learned that many people living by the South China Sea had been killed. Being an immature 8-year-old, I complained in my halting Cantonese about how unfortunate I was to be caught in the middle of it. My grandmother in the next room apparently heard my remarks and, full of morals, began to tell me her life story to change my attitude and regret my foolish words.

"It was 1939 and the Japanese bombers swooped over the north over Chungking, a major Chinese city. They came to conquer China in order to strengthen Japan. The bombs they dropped on the city and other provinces caused smoke-darkened streets and cries from trapped civilians. People in narrow back alleys, unable to escape, were roasted to death. Mothers screamed for their children and old men sat on the curbs numbed with shock. At least 5,000 were killed and thousands injured in the firestorm unleased by the bombers."

Although I could not understand the history my grandmother told me, I found it impossible not to understand her meaning. With her intense emotions and flowing Cantonese, my grandmother made a great storyteller, even at 60 years.

Wiping a single tear, she went on to explain that when she was 13, her family (her mother, father, brother, sister and herself) fled Chungking to hide from the Japanese. While running from one place to another, both parents were killed by the Japanese and her siblings starved to death. It dawned on me that my grandmother was the only one who survived and instantly I regretted my words.

"Because of this dreadful war, I had no food. I stayed alive by eating grass, the bark of trees and roots of plants. Others around me who were desperate, ate the bodies killed by the Japanese or dead mice. I saw nothing but death, suffocations, rapes and beatings. Over the next three years, 3,000 tons of bombs fell on Chungking destroying almost a third of the houses and severely damaging another third. To this day, we can only imagine how much destruction the Japanese caused in China.

"China underwent a horrific nightmare which lasted for eight years. If it had not been for the President of the United States, who ordered the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945, Japan would not have surrendered. Those who survived carry a perpetual scar on their hearts from their experience," she added bitterly before stopping, deciding that I had learned my lesson and would not complain about being unlucky again. She also realized from the way the tears welled up in my eyes and poured down my cheeks that it was too much for a child of eight to endure.

In the years that followed, I yearned to hear more of my grandmother's life. Though I would politely inquire, my grandmother would flatly refuse and continue praying to the gods. It was as if telling that one story drained all her strength. Nonetheless, I will always remember that special story told by the woman who changed my life.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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