慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
WORDS FROM DHARMA MASTER CHENG YEN—Massive Disasters Call for Great Love

I talk frequently about the fleeting nature of time, yet time seemed to slow to a crawl on April 2. On that day, the first day of a long weekend, a Taroko Express train packed with passengers returning home for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival or going on vacation derailed after hitting a construction truck near the north entrance of Qingshui Tunnel, northern Hualien. The truck had rolled down a slope into the path of the train. By the time the train driver spotted the vehicle, there was not enough distance to emergency brake. The disaster resulted in heavy casualties. My heart was weighed down with an ineffable sadness when I watched the news reports and listened to Tzu Chi volunteers who had been on the train recount the tragic event.

Several carriages of the train were stuck in Qingshui Tunnel, making rescue work very difficult. Our medical team in Hualien immediately swung into action to help. An example of our health professionals’ quick response was that of Dr. Wu Kun-chi (吳坤佶), an orthopedist at Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital. He is also the head of the Hualien County fire department’s volunteer emergency rescue team. He was seeing outpatients at the hospital when news of the accident broke. As soon as he learned about the gravity of the disaster, he rushed to join the rescue effort. He gave the clothes off his back in his service to others: while helping at the scene, he took off his rescue uniform to cover one deceased victim whose face was in bad shape, and he used his doctor’s white coat to warm a man who was feeling very cold due to the loss of blood. Although Dr. Wu has participated in several international emergency relief missions before, he could not hold back his tears when telling of his experience helping at the crash site.

Tzu Chi volunteers worked tirelessly on-site during the rescue effort to provide comfort and assistance to survivors, families of the injured and deceased, and first responders. They offered drinks, food, and other supplies throughout the operation. Realizing that the first responders engaged in the rescue mission might experience post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the heartrending death and destruction, our Jing Si Abode nuns gave bracelets of Buddhist prayer beads and Buddha pendant necklaces to the rescue workers, hoping to soothe them with the power of religion.

Our volunteers were fully aware of the support that families of the injured and deceased needed. So aside from presenting them with consolation cash as a token of care, our volunteers kept the families company and provided them with whatever help they needed. I hope our volunteers’ sincere love helped the family members deal with their grief and the excruciating pain in their hearts.

When the bereaved families returned to the crash site for a traditional ritual to call the spirits of their loved ones home, our nuns and volunteers were there to accompany them and offer support. They served at the Hualien Funeral Home too, chanting sutras for the deceased and taking care of the needs of the families. And it wasn’t just in Hualien that our volunteers stepped up to help. The bodies of some of the deceased were sent back to their home cities or counties, such as Taipei and Taitung. Our volunteers in those areas mobilized to offer care and help to the grieving families there too.

I understand the pain the bereaved are experiencing. I know they have a long road of healing ahead of them. I pray that time will heal their wounds. At the same time, I hope our volunteers share with the grieving families that their loved ones have gone to where their karmic affinities took them, and that instead of getting caught up in sadness, it’s best to turn their sorrow into best wishes for their loved ones to help them go in peace.

This tragic accident once again brought home life’s impermanence. Dozens of lives were lost in just an instant, leaving families to endure unbearable pain. In times like these, compassion and love are needed more than ever. Let’s offer up our most heartfelt prayers for all those impacted by the accident and give the grieving families our sincerest support and care. May the deceased rest in peace; may their families find peace of mind; and may the injured passengers recover as soon as possible. Let’s also take to heart the lessons of life’s impermanence and strive always to form good affinities with everyone around us and cherish what we have.

Jing Si Abode nuns prepare boxed meals for people working on the front lines of the Taroko Express train crash in Hualien, eastern Taiwan. Hsiao Yiu-hwa

 

May 2021