On May 12, 2008, a magnitude-7.9 earthquake struck the Sichuan Province in China, killing more than 70,000 people, with greater than another 10,000 missing.
Symetra Tour rookie Muni He (Chengdu, China) is a native of that region, but was in Shenzhen, China for a golf tournament at the time, approximately 1,050 miles away. Only 8 years old when the natural disaster occurred, it’s hard for He to recall the exact events.
“When we took a visit to the sites where the earthquake really did damage, I don’t think I was able to comprehend how I felt,” said He. “I mean, you can only imagine seeing the crashed buildings, knowing there’s people underneath the concrete walls. The feelings are really, really indescribable and completely heartbreaking.”
What unfolded in the weeks, months and years following, has molded He’s perspective on life and instilled a love for her country.
He’s father Nong works in the service industry in China, owning a restaurant and several hotel chains. However, after his homeland was rattled, Nong took action. He set up a refugee camp, providing shelter and feeding over 5,000 people a day.
“My dad has always been an inspiration to me. He came from a very poor family background growing up, so he really understands the struggle and has always taught me to give back to those who might be less fortunate,” said He. “What my dad did during the earthquake felt like the least that we could’ve contributed to those who had lost everything.”
On the 10-year anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake, He is in Greenwood, S.C., for the Self Regional Healthcare Foundation Women’s Health Classic, nearly 8,000 miles from where Mother Nature wreaked havoc. That hasn’t stopped the now 18-year-old from reflecting on what the event means to her and the people of China.
“I think you really start to see the courage and strength within people when in desperate situations. During that time, the whole country came together to help out,” He said. “Troops were working together day and night, carrying out people—dead or alive—for weeks. Someone we know carried her son, who was twice her weight, for nine miles at night on muddy mountain roads to a hospital when his leg was broken. Something like that sounds impossible, but it shows what love is capable of doing.”
Tomorrow, she’ll continue to play the game she is so passionate about. But it’s moments like the Sichuan earthquake that provide perspective and at times, showcase the fortitude of an entire nation.
Reflection is just one part of the healing process. Another is the historical preservation of the accounts of that day.
“Sometimes we forget how lucky we are,” said He. “I know I often take everything and everyone around me for granted, but things like this really keep me in check with reality. I’m so extremely lucky to be able to do what I love and have the people I love with me on this journey.”