Eagle at Rest
September 17, 2015
The end of recess bell is ringing. Bang! The classroom door swings open. Ming, a fourteen-year-old boy, rushes in drenched in sweat; his face and hair both steaming up. The geography teacher, a polite old man, is drawing a map on the blackboard with his chalk. While the teacher has his back turned, Ming sneaks up to his desk, grabs his reading glasses, smoking pipe, hat, and rapidly returns to his seat.
“What’s wrong?” the teacher asks as students giggle across the room.
After noticing his empty desk, he smiled. “Who is the magician that made everything disappear?”
“Ming!” someone shouted.
“Okay, Ming can show us his magic after class.”The students burst out laughing as Ming just got himself a detention once again.
Ming had been my childhood friend since we were five. He always comes to school with a huge backpack, but somehow he still asks to borrow my school supplies because he had forgotten his.
“What’s in your bulging bag?” I got curious one time.
“Look! I’ll show you.”
My goodness! No school materials at all, it is filled with his “babies” – various aircraft models. His eyes flash with passion and pride as he removes them carefully from his bag. He is obsessed with these models and later on, they became a huge part of his life.
I got used to his horseplay over the years, but one time he did something so scary that it became the biggest fear of my life. One day at lunch, I pulled out my bag from underneath the desk; a white creature came out running across my hand. It made me cringe and I jumped up to the desk screaming. All of a sudden, all the other girls in the room started screaming as well. The classroom was filled with cries and white mice running wild. All teachers and security guards came in quickly and caught a total of 18 mice.
It’s him! Ming stole these mice from his mom’s lab at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC is our school’s neighbour divided by a wall. Ming slipped into the lab with another boy and stole these experimental mice when the staff went on lunch break. He then slipped a mouse into each girl’s bag just so he can get a good laugh out of it.
The mice haunted me in my dreams that night. At midnight, I woke up my whole family with the nightmare of mice crawling all over me. Ming got a warning from school and I didn’t talk him for a week. Since then, mice have become the most fearful creatures of my life, even more so than snakes.
Another incident – one Monday morning, we went to school and were surprised to see that the school’s ceiling had fallen down like the result of an earthquake. The rooms were filled with broken bits and debris. The matter was so serious that the principal and all the administrators were there. It was unusual; I noticed that Ming and his best friends were absent that day. When I got home, my brother told me that Ming had broken his legs. Turns out, Ming and three boys have climbed onto the school’s high roof playing Batman the day before. Unfortunately, the old roof couldn’t bear the boys’ running, so it collapsed, and Ming and his friends broke their legs. Ming was almost expelled for the damages he brought to the school, but he got lucky and was allowed to continue.
Even though Ming was a troublemaker, he had a good heart. As time went by, he became braver and more willing to help others. One day in our grade 12 year, Ming came to class late with a bruised eye, bloody mouth, and a broken collar. After wards, I found out that he had been fighting with a gang of bullies. While he was walking to school in the morning, he saw three strong older students kicking and slapping a boy of lower grade. There were many onlookers, but only Ming stood up for the boy and fought the bullies off. It happened more than once. Whenever there was injustice, Ming always came forward to help like a hero.
In only a few years, Ming grew from a mischievous boy to a mature young man with a strong sense of justice. Over the years, he became famous for saving and rescuing others on the beach and mountains. The school awarded him the highest honour. Only a few students had received it since the school was established.
After high school graduation, Ming, as an outstanding student with exceptional grades, got an offer from the best Chinese Air Force Academy. It is the most prestigious school for Air Force pilots, and also the most difficult one to get in. He had been in persistent pursuit of his dreams since he was a little boy with a sack of airplane models. The door now opened to welcome him.
In our four years of university, we had pleasant high school reunions during school breaks. Ming’s many episodes of venturesome experiences left me astonished. With brutal physical training, psychological trials, and thrilling flights, he gained the top of his team. The last time I saw him, he gave me a salute wearing the Air Force uniform at first, then both of us laughed. He became a qualified pilot after he exceeded the brutal elimination rate of 60%.
It was an unforgettable day – February 5, just a few days after Ming’s 28th birthdays. His mom received a call from the Air Force Base command station (the one Ming was servicing at) while she was working. She rapidly went home. Two men, wearing uniforms, waited for her at the door.
Like a bolt of thunder, they brought the bad news– Ming met an extremely severe storm while carrying out his task, and died in a crash. They told her that Ming was the best pilot with the most outstanding flight achievement among his colleagues. As long as there were difficult tasks, Ming was always the first one to undertake the initiative.
Ming’s death was felt by his family, friends and the country. We were all devastated by such a tragic event. Ming’s life was short but vigorous and brilliant. Even more than two decades later he is still in my memory. Ming’s willingness to stand up for the weak and heroically dedicate his young life to his career continues to inspire me every day.
-- 1079 words