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Outbreak This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Poker faces covered in masks, false news report after false news report, madness at the supermarket, a sea of flowers around a picture …

More than five years have passed since SARS erupted. Most of that time has become vague, but some memories are as fresh as if they happened ­yesterday. After living in Hong Kong for more than 15 years, it was the most traumatizing time I’ve experienced.

One night the news had a report of an unknown disease. At first no one paid much attention. But before long our temperatures were checked at the gate every morning before entering school. More and more people became infected. People in Hong Kong wore face masks outside their homes. As a sixth grader, I didn’t know much about epidemics, but I realized my city had become a dangerous place. One day, all schools were shut down. Offices were closed. Beaches and parks were closed. Shops were closed. I remember walking around the streets feeling as if I were the only living creature on earth.

The disease had a chain effect. It seemed it would never end. I didn’t realized how much fear this virus was rooting in people’s hearts until I went to the supermarket. I will never forget the image: people were queued all the way to the back of the store with loads of groceries. A mere rumor had beguiled them all, a rumor that Hong Kong would be quarantined.

The disease was spreading so rapidly that I started thinking that one day it would come to my house. The more people died, the more I thought I was going to catch it and die too. Every day the headlines announced how many were infected and had died. Our fear existed, but remained silent. It was like a volcano ready to explode.

Hospitals became “the mouth of a tiger.” Anyone who had symptoms wouldn’t dare go there. When a person told hospital officials he had a fever, he was forced into a room filled with other infected people. No one could visit them. Then not just ­patients but doctors and nurses were dying too.

One of my aunt’s coworkers, who was a nurse, died from SARS. My mum thought it appropriate for us to go to the hospital to honor her. To tell the truth, I didn’t want to go. Who would want to go near a hospital at that time? But when I got there, I almost cried. There were hundreds – thousands – of flowers in the main hall. Everything was white, plain, silent, and lifeless … except for the sea of flowers. To know that there were so many people who cared, especially in a diseased city, warmed my heart. Even wearing a mask, I could still smell the freshness of the flowers.

SARS turned my hometown upside down and inside out; no one in Hong Kong will forget that time. I was surrounded by fear and could not help but be afraid myself. Waiting was torture, but it finally came to an end, like a rainbow after a storm. It may seem foolish to risk your life to honor a dead person, but thinking about it now, we risked so little compared with how my aunt’s friend risked her life to save others. I learned through danger that we find courage and love. On the other hand, I witnessed that fear and anxiety can make people lose their logic and after that comes selfishness.

There are always those who share, and those who take. I do not see SARS as a black hole in my life, but rather a lesson. As Helen Keller said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” We are learning, every day, carrying the motivation of hope. I have learned a lesson.

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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This article has 4 comments. Post your own!

blah91 said...
Jan. 29, 2009 at 2:10 pm:
This article was very sad. I'd like to help this person. It was very insperational. IT was nice that the child went to honor their dead relatives even at the risk of their own lives. <3 The lesson that the author learned was a very valuable lesson. Thank you for sharing your story.
 
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CABhahahaHPhahaTL said...
Jan. 3, 2009 at 6:45 am:
I think your writing is fine the way it is so whomever wrote the first comment, "don't be so picky", Your story is inspirational, good job!
 
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wingedgirl4eva said...
Jan. 2, 2009 at 1:15 am:
hey, great job!!!!!! To laugh4life - he did seperate the paragraphs. Duh.
 
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laugh4life said...
Nov. 11, 2008 at 2:31 am:
i really wanted to read this, but next time you write something, can u seperate the paragraphs, or indent or somehitn, bcus i know i personally have a really hard time, focosing when things are written like this, but it does seem very good what i read!
 
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