Yang Congyou would not leave the quake-hit southwestern county of Beichuan for two reasons. Shi Yan Three village was where she spent her entire life. 'I couldn't imagine living elsewhere - it's the cradle-to-grave place for me,' she said. But the 81-year-old woman was also waiting for her 18-year-old granddaughter, who failed to come back after saying goodbye to her as usual on Monday morning. The young woman was heading for Beichuan County High School - the best school in the county - which was devoured by the 7.8-magnitude quake within a couple of seconds. 'We trekked hours to the school. It used to be a five-storey building. But it sank and crumbled, as if being hit by a giant hammer falling down from the skies,' said Li Qunzhen, the girl's mother, who searched the rubble. 'But where to begin? We were digging with our bare hands, but some rocks were two metres high.' They laboured at the debris for a whole day. But there was no miracle. Meanwhile, the old grandmother, Ms Yang, waits in vain for the girl to return. For the lucky ones who did escape - in Beichuan the rate was four out of 10 - their search for loved ones could be equally heart-wrenching. Ni Weizong, a nine-year-old boy, had been looking for his grandparents for almost 30 hours. The second-grader thought he would be killed when he could not run fast enough out of a collapsing school building. 'My teacher yelled, 'quick, quick, run out and hide under that old tree',' said Weizong. 'Boys moved fast, girls much slower, teachers were last and I was somewhere in the middle.' But the tree - more than 100 years old and something of a local legend - collapsed as well. All the fast boys died. 'I had hoped my grandma and grandpa were as lucky as I was,' said Weizong, whose parents are migrant workers earning money in another province. By the time he was evacuated to Jiuzhou Stadium in Mianyang yesterday morning, he had asked almost everybody he saw on the road whether they had happened to see Qiu Guizhen - his grandmother. Nobody knew what he was talking about. And his voice became too hoarse to be intelligible. But Lady Luck smiled on the boy. At the stadium, where nearly 20,000 refugees camped out, they found each other. Huang Yin, a school teacher at Beichuan County High School, was lucky too but yesterday he was wrestling with his conscience. Mr Huang was a couple of minutes late for his Monday afternoon class. When the earthquake struck at 2.38pm, he was walking towards the academic building, some 100 metres away. As the chaos subsided, he tried to pull his students and colleagues from the rubble. One of his most respected co-workers, a retired teacher who resumed teaching recently, was buried under the debris, cut in half by a fallen pillar. 'He was very diligent and he was always on time,' Mr Huang said.