|Abliz Mamatniyaz, a Uygur owner of a car company, gets an award for being one of 10 ordinary people most inspiring to the nation, on Jan 9 in Beijing. Qi Heng / Xinhua|
Uygur man inspires nation by rescuing more than 60 people from accident scenes and carrying on
He injured himself rescuing lives from fire when young, lost his love but never his heart and desire to help those in need, and found his true love and an eventual award for his "one man's marathon".
The phrase became trendy online as many Chinese netizens used it to describe the life journey of 39-year-old Abliz Mamatniyaz — a disabled Uygur man who has saved more than 60 lives in the past 22 years — after Xinhua News Agency named him one of the top 10 ordinary citizens who inspired the nation in 2013.
The first time he rushed into a fire in 1991 on National Highway 315 in Moyu county, Mamatniyaz was 17. After he rescued 11 people from a burning minivan, the young man paid a steep price — two arms maimed and almost amputated, a mouthful of teeth gone, and burns over 80 percent of his body. He was in a coma for three days.
"Lying on my sickbed, I told myself repeatedly: ‘The moment I can move, I'll go to the rooftop and jump off,'" Mamatniyaz recalled, coughing from a heavy cold in his rented apartment in the city of Hotan in southern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. "I could not tolerate the pain."
At that time, Mamatniyaz had a beautiful girlfriend whom he wanted to spend his life with. But she never visited him during his nearly half-year stay in the hospital.
"The first day I walked out of the hospital, I saw her wedding with another man," he said bitterly. "She must have thought I was the most stupid guy on Earth because I was burned and became disabled while saving others."
Back home, he felt his burnt skin and broken heart. For the next nine years he refused to date. Sadly, he could hardly raise his hands."Your life is done," he was told.
Then came his father, his first and only hero. "Papa told me, ‘No storm can fold a real eagle's wings,'" said Mamatniyaz. "I believed him."
For years, he kept trying to turn a steering wheel like before, though no employers dared to hire him to drive. One day, when he was leaning forward and struggling with the wheel using his body weight as usual, he suddenly heard a crack in his arms, and saw his dormant muscles alive again. In 1996, he went back to his most familiar profession, as a driver.
"I have died once in 1991, in that fire. Now I'm living my second life," said Mamatniyaz. "I must do good things to pay it back."
He saved dozens of people in the years to come, including local drivers, passengers of different ethnic groups, Kazakh passers-by, and US tourists. Most were in deadly car accidents on desert highways, according to media reports.
"My papa told me, ‘Uygur people, Han people, Kazakh people, outsiders, foreigners, no difference. We are all human.' I'd help whoever is in need," said Mamatniyaz, who holds his father's last words as his life guidance: "Do the good, not the bad," and "Help others, and others will help back."
His father, Mamat Niyaz, a coal miner, was a local hero himself before an accidental death in 2004. In 1971, before Mamatniyaz came to the world, his father dashed into a collapsing coal mine in Urumqi to save several trapped men. A heavy machine dropped down on his right hand, which almost smashed off three fingers. Niyaz could not bend those fingers for the rest of his life.
After Niyaz rushed underground to save colleagues during another coal mine collapse in Hotan in 1978, the doctors wanted to amputate his gangrenous left leg, which got stuck during the rescue, to save him. But Niyaz firmly rejected that. Courage and luck brought him back to life, but he lost the ability to move even slightly fast forever. And all his life, Niyaz helped about 80 lives escape death from various accidents deep under the ground.
"Papa saved more people than I did," said Mamatniyaz, surnamed after his father's full name. "As his son, I must carry on his spirit."
On July 30, 2009, Mamatniyaz broke the window of a burning car on a collision site on a highway 6 km from Hotan, pulled an unconscious man out, drove him to the hospital, and carried him all the way to the emergency room, using his disabled arms that normally could not lift weight more than a dozen kilograms.
"When I'm saving people, I get unlimited strength," says Mamatniyaz, "but once they are safe, I even find it hard to move my fingers. I don't know why."
The saved knew the difference, according to Tianshan Net (www.ts.cn), a news website in Xinjiang. "Big brother," cries Lei Ming to Mamatniyaz in hospital after waking up. "Without you, there would be no me."