TANGSHAN, Hebei, July 28 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Guochang took a photo of his son's name on a large memorial in downtown Tangshan City on Thursday. He has done this every year on July 28 since the wall was erected in 2008.
"I have taken one photo for every year my child has missed," said Zhang, 75, taking out a napkin to dry his eyes.
He lost his 7-year-old son in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Tangshan on July 28, 1976. The fatal disaster killed 242,769 people and critically injured another 164,851.
About 40,000 people were at the memorial wall on July 28 his year, many left flowers under the 7.28-meter high, 500 meter long memorial wall, which features the names of the 240,000 that died in the disaster.
"My sister loved beautiful things. We always got on very well, even when we were youngsters. I wish I could tell her about how Tangshan has changed," said Song Zepu, 80.
Many flower baskets were laid in front of the monument. A large banner, signed by many residents of Tangshan, reads: "Tangshan quake survivors say hello to all the people of our nation and show respect to the People's Liberation Army".
Hundreds of veterans from the southwestern province of Sichuan and central Hubei attended the memorial.
"I was a soldier in Tangshan. I was a survivor and a rescuer," said Fu Xiheng, 62, who came to Tangshan with his wife from Yibin City, Sichuan.
"We had to dig through the debris to search for people with our hands. Many of the rescuers seriously injured their hands, and many had cuts so deep you could see the bones, " he recalled.
The veterans laid a flower basket at around 3 a.m. Thursday.
Ma Guoshun lost his eight-year-old brother in the quake. He and his wheelchair-bound father travelled 30 km to the memorial park. Due to his poor eyesight, it took the father an hour to find the name of his son.
"My younger son was a bit naughty. Seeing his name, I remembered how excited he was about starting school that year," the father said.