By Candice Chen
Every day after class, Baiyun Yao, a doctoral student at Boston University, goes to the gym to work out. Biking and jogging along the track, Yao is preparing for her first marathon this month. While doing regular training, her presence is passionate but serious.
Yao has attended the Boston Marathon twice, once as a volunteer and once as an onlooker, but this year, she will attend as a runner to honor Lu Lingzi, the Chinese student who died in the marathon bombing last April.
“I want to finish the journey Lingzi didn’t finish,” Yao said.
Yao and Lu are similar. Both arrived at BU from China in their 20s. Both are passionate about sports and curious about the world. Even though Yao didn’t know Lu before the tragedy, they share so many similarities that Yao wanted to put forth her own effort as a marathon racer to commemorate Lu.
Last April, Yao went to the marathon to cheer for her friends. Yao said most of her friends finished the marathon in three hours, so when the two bombs exploded, they were already home.
“I felt so lucky and beloved when I heard the news,” Yao said. After the explosion, Yao received many e-mails and messages from her family and friends, but it was not until two days later that she learned about a Chinese girl who died in the bombing.
“It was such a sad story,” Yao said. “I was so shocked about Lingzi’s death.”
This February, right after the Chinese New Year, Yao read an article in BU Today about Lu’s family being given runner slots by the Boston Athletic Association and their intention to donate five of the slots to the university. The runner slots were later increased to seven.
Yao applied beliving that running would be a great opportunity for her to commemorate a beloved compatriot.
“The Chinese community at BU is like a big family. We will help Lingzi to finish her dream,” Yao said.
Sending a message to terrorists is another reason why Yao is running. She believes that although a tragedy took place, people cannot be beaten down.
“Whatever happened can only make us stronger than ever before. We are going to fight this together,” Yao said.
Among the six joining Yao are three other Chinese girls.
Yujue Wang is a junior pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. Like Yao, this will be Wang’s first marathon as a racer. According to Wang, despite how sad and unforgettable the tragedy of last spring was, Lu’s passing has become her motivation to reach the finish line in this year’s marathon.
“Lingzi possesses so many similar characteristics to all of us — international students coming all the way from China and nation builders when returning home,” Wang said.
Being the only child in her family, Wang’s parents were concerned about her physical capability. Despite those worries, “they feel proud of me for taking on this honorary commitment,” Wang said.
According to BU Today, the money raised by the seven runners will go to the Lu Lingzi Scholarship Fund, which was created by Boston University Board of Trustees shortly after the tragedy. The scholarship supports outstanding graduate students from China who want to attend BU. The fund has exceeded $1 million, with donations still pouring in.
Scott Nichols, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, said in BU Today it was the fastest fundraising he had ever seen.
Besides honoring Lu by running, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at BU (BUCSSA) is planning a memorial ceremony at Marsh Chapel on April 14 at 7 p.m. Zhixiu Jin, the director of media at BUCSSA, said students want to make a giant paper crane to commemorate Lu. “We would like BU students to write down their notes on this giant paper,” Jin said. “Let it fly to heaven and tell Lingzi how much we miss her.”
“We are one community,” Jin said. “We will make our promise to move on with her spirit.”
On April 15, Lu’s family will launch the Lingzi Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will help provide educational opportunities for students like Lu.
“The Lingzi Foundation will honor the life and dreams of our beloved daughter. She was full of love and compassion and enjoyed a splendid life experience here in Boston,” Lu’s father, Lu Jun, said in a prepared statement.
This post is also available in: Chinese