Xiaofeng Wan’s Story

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April 15th, 2013 is a day that we higher education folks in Boston look forward to every year, because it is Boston Marathon Monday and a day filled with homemade potluck food, drinks, cheering and being a part of one of the most important days of the city. I am originally from China. After completing my undergraduate in Beijing and worked in media and education for two years, I moved to Boston to continue with my master’s at Boston College. So for me, it is also an important day for my American cultural experience, to get to know my local peers better and to immerse myself in a happy crowd of welcoming people celebrating the common human spirit of sports.

Then, the bombing happened out of nowhere. It went off four miles away from where we were, but it shocked me just as much as if it were right next to me. I was staring at live scenes on TV back at my classmate’s place and couldn’t believe my eyes. The strong sentiment of disbelief struck me so hard and I refused to admit to myself that those horrific scenes were in fact happening in the city where I called my first home in the US. Worrying messages and social media tweets were flooding in as friends from around the world heard about it. When the bombing happened, it was late in the afternoon, which was early in the morning in China (12 hours difference). When I got back to my apartment at 6pm here, which was 6am in China, I called my mom and told her about the attack. She was still asleep and I made her turn on the TV to watch the news. Had I called her after she watched the news, I couldn’t imagine how worried she would be. After all, I am thousands of miles away from home, any minor illness or misfortune would make her worry for days because she couldn’t be here for me and there’s nothing she could do.

Later, we heard that among three bombing victims, there was a Chinese girl who was graduating with her master’s in Statistics from Boston University. Her name is Lingzi Lu. She’s one of us. She could be my Chinese friend with whom I struggle to thrive in a new culture with, with whom I complain about the awful taste of Chinese food in the States to, and with whom I might be enjoying a fun night singing at a crappy Chinatown Karaoke bar with. She’s one of us, but I will never get to know her. The shock among all Chinese students and scholars was tremendous. Right after the bombing happened, her friends were looking for her everywhere. The message of a missing Chinese girl went viral on Chinese social media for a few days before they finally located her in a hospital and she was gone from us forever. I felt the pain of her parents, so much pain, but I could never feel the agony as they do-losing their only daughter. Lingzi was the only child in her family, same as me. Our generation was born under the One Child Policy in China and we became the one and only child in a family of six people, grandparents on both sides and our own parents. Our families focused all of their love on us.  If we experienced any tiny bit of unhappiness, it concerned the whole family. We were spoiled and so very loved.

Lingzi’s memorial was held at Metcalf Hall at Boston University on April 22, 2013. Her parents came over from China to accompany their daughter for the last journey. On normal days, it could’ve been them attending her graduation ceremony, watching their daughter walk down the dais proudly and taking a family portrait like every other family does, but instead it was the most heartbreaking moment of saying goodbye. Lingzi’s father gave a eulogy in honor of Lingzi at the end of the memorial. The man was crying. He was crying so hard. He quoted a poem written by a Lingzi’s middle school teacher, which was published on Lingzi’s hometown newspaper. I think this sums up how I, and many others, feel:

You’re a beautiful girl from Shenyang,
The pride of your parents,
An honor of Yucai (School),
Last night, Shenyang, your hometown,
Lit you an everlasting candle,
Lighting up your path to heaven,
So that you won’t lose your way anymore,
There will be no bombs,
Or terrorist attacks in its path,
In tears, we hear you say, the forever young,
“Dear Dad and Mom, don’t cry,
I love you!
If there is an after-life, I will be your daughter again!”
May the perished rest in peace, and the survivors be strong.

Xiaofeng Wan was a Master’s Candidate in the Boston College Higher Education program at the time of the Boston Marathon tragedy. The author’s views are their own and do not represent those of any institution, entity or individual. You can reach out to Xiaofeng directly via email. Please feel free to share this on your social network of choice using the link icons below. We also welcome you to share your reactions and stories in the comments section below so we may all benefit from your thoughts and wisdom.

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