On Tuesday night, six days into their lockdown, the people of Wuhan sought to boost each others' spirits with a city-wide chant of "Wuhan jiāyóu!" It was an inspiring show of unity and resolve from people who have every right to feel like the rest of the world has abandoned them.
Are you worried about the coronavirus? If you're like most people, the answer is probably yes. The new 2019-nCoV virus is rapidly spreading to a growing list of locations and shows no signs of slowing down. Students are handing out face masks in Seattle, near where the first U.S. case was discovered. In Chicago, a new case was just confirmed, the first known human-to-human transmission in the U.S. More deaths are reported daily. There's no denying it's a scary time.
But there's one group of people with more reason to be afraid than the rest of us -- the roughly 12 million people who live in Wuhan, China, ground zero for the coronavirus epidemic. It's a terrifying place to be, but the people who live there can't leave. The city's been locked down, with public transportation stopped for more than a week as part of the Chinese government's ambitious effort to keep the virus from spreading even more.
The Chicago of China
Wuhan, sometimes called the Chicago of China, is a transportation hub and a manufacturing center, where many people from other countries have taken up residence as they oversee production at the city's many factories. Many of these foreign nationals have left or are now leaving Wuhan on planes sent by their nation's governments, eager to get them back home and out of harm's way. It must be tough for the Wuhan residents left behind to watch them go.
To make matters worse, hospitals in Wuhan are completely overburdened, and with all their beds full, have been forced to turn some patients away. The Chinese government has responded with a massive project to build two new large hospitals in about 10 days' time. In the meantime, people in Wuhan are stuck in their homes, with nothing to do but wait and worry.
It's tough to imagine how such a situation would play out in different place. There might be a lot of disgruntlement and perhaps some violence. But in Wuhan, a call went out over social media, and these people who can't assemble or even travel from one place to another, stepped out on their balconies or opened their windows and began shouting "Wuhan jiāyóu!" Which literally means "Wuhan, pour oil on!" and translates roughly as "Stay strong, Wuhan!" Soon, the shout could be heard throughout the city.
I've never been in a frightening situation like the one the people of Wuhan face. But if I ever am, I just hope I can handle it with the courage and grace that they are. They're an example for us all.