06/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In A World That Glorifies Fictional Superheroes, Will A True Act Of Heroism Be Forgotten?

Take your pick of larger-than-life super heroes who dominate the screens this movie season from the Hulk to Iron Man to Indiana Jones, heck, even to Mr. Big (if you count rescuing a nearing-40-still-single woman from spinsterhood as an act of heroism). It's a sad truth that we can find out more details about these character's fictional exploits (including what they are wearing) than we can about the events happening around us in the world today. It's in this media climate -- when the press that these characters and their box office receive rivals the column space and airtime given to urgent real life tragedy -- such as the recent earthquake in China and the cyclone in Myanmar -- that I hold out the hope that Mr. X will still get his star turn in the spotlight.

This is taken from the blog of Li Chengpeng is a well-known soccer commentator in China. After the recent earthquake in southwestern China, he went to Wenchuan to see if he could help and he published a compelling post (translated by netizen teich at overseas Chinese BBS

It begins: Today I am not going to write about death. I want to write about miracles.

He goes on to tell of a school that didn't collapse like so many others did, mostly due to substandard building contracts and officials skimming money intended for better quality materials.

(See here to see an official begging parents of children killed in the quake not to protest )


At the Longhan Elementary School, all 483 students survived without any injuries because their school did not collapse and they were all able to sit out the quake in a large playing field. 412 were quickly reunited with their families. But another 71 were left to fend for themselves. A teacher, Xiaochuan Xiao, had the presence of mind to lead eight other teachers and those 71 students through a two day and one night ordeal, without water or food, over the mountains, to reach Mianyang City unhurt.

As their tale of survival has already become a "legend" throughout Mianyang city and the Beichuan district, our blogger started to wonder how this particular school resisted collapse when so many others in the immediate area did not.

Again, in Li Chengpeng's words:

I found out a company named Han Long Group had donated money to build the elementary school ten years ago. The name of the company's owner is Liu Han, and the name of its general manager is Sun Xiaodong. The person who supervised the construction of the school was an office administrator of the company. He talked to me, but didn't want me to reveal his name. He said he didn't want to be praised, or to bring any unnecessary trouble. So I have to use the title Mr. X to address him.....

Mr. X once found that the cement used in constructing the school had too much mud mixed in it. He ordered that all mud be washed away, because as a cement expert, he knew it could cause problems. He also ordered all flat pebble stones to be replaced by round ones, because he was afraid that they might weaken the structure.

There was a time when the project was delayed and Mr. X found out the reason was because some local government officials had intercepted the donated money. According to China's donation regulations, a party who wishes to donate an elementary school has to give its donation to a government department, which then transfers the money to a contractor to implement the project. However, very often officials put the money into their own pockets. Mr. X was very angry when he found out about it. He pinned down the officials and managed to get the money available for the project.

At the cornerstone laying ceremony, Mr. X got furious again when he learned that the project would be delayed again for certain reasons. He argued with local officials and got a playing field constructed for the school. He was very glad with the brand new field. Ten years later it was the place where 483 children survived the earthquake.

How appropriate that Mr. X should choose to remain anonymous, as often the true heroes are the nameless and the faceless. Yet how sad that our hero hides behind the cloak of anonymity as a safety measure, ever fearful of the repercussions of a system of government that rewards the greedy and permits the few to line their coffers at the expense of the many. While the drama of the fictional Hulk taking on his nemesis, "The Abomination," repeats throughout the summer, how long will we remember Mr. X's courage in defying the banal abominations of the status quo? Mr. X didn't even have to morph into a green monster to do it--all he did was refuse to settle for "that's just how things are done" and insist on doing it the right way, at great personal risk. My hero.