NPR host tells stories of tragedy, courage



Members of the UK community listened to stories of courage and rebuilding Wednesday night at Memorial Hall.

Melissa Block, a National Public Radio host who has hosted since 2003, shared her award-winning stories from Sichuan, China, after the devastating earthquake of May 2008.

Block said NPR originally sent her to Sichuan to cover things like Sichuan cuisine and conservation of Panda bears, but coincidentally Block and her crew were at the heart of the quake when it happened.

“What we hadn’t really thought about at all is that Sichuan is on a fault line, the same forces that created Himalaya Mountains millions of years ago, and the same forces that triggered that earthquake … that killed about 90,000 people,” Block said.

Block said she was interviewing a priest when the quake struck, and she began documenting the scene as it played before her.

Block said she and colleague Robert Siegel spent time documenting stories of people’s lives that the quake devastated.

One story that stuck out to her was one of parents searching for their son in a heap of rubble.

“As soon as I realized what was happening there it became clear that we wouldn’t leave that place … I would be with them until they learned one way or the other what happened,” Block said. “I had hoped there would be a happy ending, that their child would be found.”

The story, however, did not end that way. In the audio clip, cries of desperation revealed that the parents found their child dead.  While reporting, Block said she stifled sobs.

The story aired as a 12-minute segment, and the haunting footage brought her back to China a year later.

When she returned, Block found a region rebuilding itself.

“It was like one big construction zone everywhere we went,” Block said. “It was just a musical symphony of construction, and you’d see sometimes new buildings going up right behind the devastated buildings or the temporary barracks.”

Other headline stories Block has covered include the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Sept. 11., according to her Web site.

Tragedies reveal something in people, Block said.

“We’ve heard it again with Haiti about resilience, but there is something to be said about the courage of people to pick up and rebuild their lives,” she said.