In the process, he sang songs to encourage his classmates buried with him. Then he dragged two classmates out of the ruins and carried them to a safer zone on his back. He was trapped by falling rubble again when he went back to the teaching building a third time to rescue more classmates but was saved by his teacher.
When asked why he acted so bravely, he said in an interview with newspaper People's Daily, "Because I am the monitor of the class. If my classmates passed away, what is the meaning of having a monitor?"
Internet comments and postings praised him for his bravery and sense of responsibility. Many people said he did something some adults could not accomplish. One netizen said, "I hope the whole country can learn from the sturdiness of Sichuan people, especially the single children, who should regard the heroic children in the earthquake zone as role models."
The other candidates for the awards were similarly heroic. Ma Jian, a ninth-grader at Xuankou Middle School in the severely hit township of Yingxiu in the quake epicenter of Wenchuan, saved a 13-year-old girl from the ruins with his bare hands. He rescued the girl after digging for hours in heavy rain.
"I see the hope of this country through Ma's determination," one person said.
"From him we see the glory of humanity as well as the sturdiness of the Chinese people," said another.
Kang Jie, an 11-year-old sixth-grader of Yingxiu Primary School, was in a lesson on the sixth floor of her school when the earthquake struck. When her teacher asked students to run, her instincts told her to jump from the window. The building collapsed seconds after she hit the ground. Although the decision was made in a matter of seconds, Kang chose to jump onto a soft vegetable field behind the school rather the concrete playground in front of the building, which saved her from any major injury.
She rushed back to the debris of the buildings to drag her teachers and peers out of the ruins amid the earthquake's aftershocks and was later evacuated to a safer place when more people arrived to join the rescue work.
He Cuiqing, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Qingchuan County, was buried for 50 hours and had her right leg amputated-but not before she saved more than 10 classmates in the first few minutes following the quake. The girl said she has no regrets.
"I heavily underestimated the virtue of our children and what they are capable of achieving. I was wrong," another Internet user said of the heroic youths.