By Chen Tong
Boston University News Service
Every day after class, Baiyun Yao, a doctoral student at Boston University, goes to the campus gym for a serious workout. She jogs on the indoor track or rides a stationary bike in preparation for her first marathon.
Yao has attended the Boston Marathon twice — as a volunteer and as part of the crowd. But this year she will attend as a runner in honor of Lu Lingzi, the Chinese student who died in the marathon bombing last April.
“I want to finish the journey Lingzi didn’t finish,” said Yao.
Yao has much in common with Lu. Like Lu, Yao is from China and came to BU in her 20s. She is passionate about sports. Even though Yao didn’t know Lu, she feels a connection to her slain classmate, so she decided to train for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Other Chinese students also plan honoring Lu at an April 14 memorial service at Marsh Chapel organized by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at BU (BUCSSA).
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Last April, Yao was on the sidelines, cheering on her friends as they ran by. Most finished the marathon in three hours, she said. So, when the two bombs exploded, they had already gone home.
“I felt so lucky… when I heard the news,” said Yao. Soon after the blast, emails and messages started arriving from her family and friends. It was not until two days later she learned a Chinese classmate had died in the bombing.
“It was such a sad story,” said Yao. “I was so shocked about Lingzi’s death.”
This February, right after the Chinese New Year, Yao learned that the Boston Athletic Association had given Lu’s family the option to choose seven athletes to run the race. The Lus decided to choose Boston University students. Yao thought about it for a few days, applied, and was chosen.
Yao said she relates to Lu because she knows what it is like to travel all the way from China to the United States.
“Chinese community at BU is like a big family. We will help Lingzi to finish her dream,” said Yao.
She also wants to send a message to the terrorists: “Whatever happened can only make us stronger than ever before. We are gonna fight this together.”
Yao is ready for the race, but she is not the only member of the Chinese community who wants to run for Lu. Among the seven runners, three are Chinese students.
Yue Wang is a junior who is pursuing a dual bachelor degree in economics and finance. Like Yao, this year will be Wang’s first marathon as a racer. Wang said Lingzi’s death has become her motivation to reach the finish line.
“Lingzi carries so many similar characteristics with all of us — international students coming all the way from China and nation builders when returning home,” said Wang.
Being the only child in the family, Wang’s parents are concerned about her ability to run more than 20 miles. “But they feel proud of me for taking on this honorary commitment,” said Wang.
The money raised by the seven runners will go to the Lu Lingzi Scholarship Fund, which was created by Boston University shortly after the bombing. The scholarship will provide support to outstanding graduate students from China who want to come to BU. The fund now exceeds $1 million and the donations are still coming, according to the university news service, BU Today.
The memorial ceremony at Marsh Chapel will feature a giant paper crane, a Chinese symbol of remembrance, said group spokesman Zhixiu Jin.
“We would like BU students to write down their notes on this giant paper,” said Jin. “Let it fly to the heaven and tell Lingzi how much we miss her.”
BUCSSA plans to put the paper crane in front of Marsh Chapel.
“We are one community,” said Jin. “We will make our promise to move on with her spirit.”