Barbara Shelly

Promising lives stolen by violence in KC and Boston

Updated: 2013-04-21T00:20:19Z


The Kansas City Star

Lu Lingzi was in Boston to study mathematics and statistics, land a prestigious job in finance and, maybe, as she confided to friends, find a boyfriend.

Instead she became “the third victim.”

The 23-year-old Boston University graduate student was killed while standing with friends near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. She was the third, and last, of the three persons fatally wounded in the attacks to be identified.

The third victim was one of more than three quarters of a million international students who come to study at America’s universities. Nearly 200,000 of that number are Chinese. In Kansas City, you can see young women like Lu walking in the neighborhoods around the University of Missouri-Kansas City, often in groups, with shy but quick smiles.

These students are guests in our cities and our nation, and we are fortunate to have them. They bring cultural diversity to our campuses and communities, along with brainpower and rigorous study habits.

To have lost the young Chinese student in Boston so suddenly and brutally seems like an abject failure of hospitality. On a local scale, I felt the same way when 23-year-old Aaron Markarian, a promising opera student at UMKC’s Conservatory of Music and Dance, was killed last month in yet another senseless gun homicide. Markarian hailed from nearby Warrensburg, but still he was a guest in Kansas City, and it seemed wrong that we could not shield him from our violent crime problem.

But criminals intent on random acts of violence don’t personalize their victims. They don’t care if the person in their path is a beloved child, or a vibrant young man with a beautiful voice, or a lovely young woman from another land.

The good people of Boston — who reacted to a vile attack with heroism and compassion — could not have saved Lu, whose bad fortune was to be standing too close to a pressure cooker rigged to maim and kill. They could not have saved the other victims either, 8-year-old Martin Richard and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell, both of Massachusetts.

Cities provide reasonable security measures for large public events like the Boston Marathon. Colleges take pains to keep students safe on campus and coach them on how to avoid trouble in the neighborhoods outside. But in the end, students, children, senior citizens, everyone becomes part of the throng.

Most times at an event like the Boston Marathon the throng is part of a great celebration. On Monday, somebody saw it as an opportunity for carnage.

Lu’s friends at Boston University began worrying about her almost immediately. By evening, Internet sites in the U.S. and China were seeking information on her whereabouts. On Tuesday, she was announced as the third victim, young Martin being the first and Campbell the second.

Details of a promising life emerged. The child of scholarly parents, Lu grew up in Shenyang, an industrial city in northeast China, where she was selected to attend an elite high school. She studied at the Beijing Institute of Technology and started classes at Boston University last fall.

By all accounts, she was thriving there, doing well in classes and surrounded by friends. Her Chinese microblog, similar to a Twitter account, revealed a cheerful young woman who liked music, finance and food. She told friends she wanted to find a steady boyfriend because her family was talking about helping her out with that, according to a profile of Lu in The New York Times.

With Lu’s death, reports emerged of international students reassessing plans to study in America. But that is a temporary reaction to a high-profile event. We are an imperfect host nation in a troubled world, but the U.S. is still the best place for students everywhere to pursue their dreams. We can only regret and deplore the horrible act that destroyed the dreams of Lu Lingzi.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to Follow her at

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