Holding a memorial service a week after Wu’s and Qu’s deaths — the traditional mourning custom in Chinese culture — speakers overwhelmingly stressed the role the Trojan Family and its considerable international community have played in the days since the tragedy and will continue to play in days to come.
President C. L. Max Nikias and Yannis Yortsos, dean of the Viterbi School of Engineering, made clear the connection they felt to family and friends assembled, as both Nikias and Yortsos had once been international graduate students in America. Like Wu and Qu, both eventually became part of the Trojan Family.
“I know something of the life [Wu and Qu] lived, because my wife and myself were once them,” Nikias said. “We dreamed of a better life through better education. There is a loneliness of being a foreign student in a foreign land. Many of you know this firsthand. When you come to Los Angeles, you become more than a citizen of a major metropolis. You, like them, became a member of the sacred Trojan Family.”
Yortsos also underlined his shared experiences, both as an international graduate student and a parent of a Viterbi student.
“I know that I speak the same language as you, because I am like you,” Yortsos told the hundreds of international students assembled. “Like you, I came to this country as a foreign graduate student. I came thirsty for education, thirsty to explore the world. Like you, I came to make a difference.”
While Nikias and Yortsos drew from their own lives to connect with much of the crowd, Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni stressed that the community must look forward and carry on Wu’s and Qu’s memory.
“[Chinese philosopher] Lao-Tzu said, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,’” Soni said. “Remembering is only the beginning: We must also carry their precious gifts of love, honor, duty, hard work and sacrifice with us throughout our lives and in all that we do. As we honor them, let us cherish their memory that remains with us as a blessing for all of us.”
In looking beyond the tragedy, Nikias took the opportunity to announce a yearly memorial scholarship fund in Wu’s and Qu’s names.
“The holders of this scholarship will have the qualities — restrained intelligence, unyielding ambition, unassailable accomplishment and kindness — that they did,” Nikias said. “This scholarship fund will ensure that [their] dreams will live on forever, with the opportunities it opens up for other students. To further their memory we can also commit ourselves to building a safer city and world.”
Nikias’ call for a safer world was echoed throughout the night as the yet unsolved murders of Wu and Qu cast a further pall on proceedings.
“We engineers and scientists are analytical and methodical,” Yortsos said. “Why do things happen? When we are confronted with an unexplainable tragedy, we struggle to understand. Answers will hopefully be provided, hopefully soon. In the interim, we can persevere by choosing hope and faith for those questions we cannot answer.”
Chinese Consul General Qiu Shaofang, a late addition to the services, appealed law enforcement to act and stressed the value of every Chinese citizen, at home or abroad.
“The ministry of foreign affairs, ministry of education and the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles acted immediately after the tragedy happened and have committed [to] join efforts in tackling problems arising from the incident,” Shaofang said. “As Chinese Premier Hu Jintao has said, China has a population of 1.3 billion and every one is precious.”
Just as China places value in all its citizens, Nikias reminded attendees once again that the Trojan Family will continue to offer support wherever needed.
“We share your grief, which weighs heavy on our hearts,” Nikias said. “Your loss weighs heavy on our university and its thousands of supporters. We also share what your children gave us, which enriched our lives immeasurably.”