Slain USC Graduate Students Remembered For Their Loyalty and Spirit
On the eve of Qu Ming’s 24th birthday, candles were lit for him on the campus of the University of Southern California. Hundreds of students gathered April 11, not to throw a birthday party for him, but sadly, to attend the candlelight vigil for the young man and his friend, Wu Ying , who were shot to death last Wednesday.
Two years ago, they came all the way from China to pursue their American dream. In two months, they planned to return home to be reunited with their families and friends.
"I was so sorry my son didn’t have the chance to realize his dream," Qu’s mom told a reporter for Sinovisionnet.
Qu and Wu were shot to death in their car on April 11 in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue in the Adams-Normandie neighborhood about a mile from campus. They were both graduate students in USC’s Viterbi school, majoring in electrical engineering. Police say they may have died in a botched robbery attempt and continue to investigate. No arrests have been made.
Their friends have been reluctant to be interviewed for the past week and are only now opening up. New details about the pair emerged during Wednesday night’s memorial service at the Shrine Auditorium, along with material in blogs and online publications.
Qu was born on April 12, 1988 in Jilin province in northeast China. According to Chinese media, his father works in an insurance company and his mother is a teacher.
Qu’s best friend Yang Biao, also a USC graduate student who went to the same undergraduate university with Qu in China, spoke at Wednesday’s memorial service honoring the slain students.
"You said you grew up in the rural area. You never saw a football or basketball until junior high school. That’s why you don’t like sports," said Biao. But it didn’t take too long before Qu caught up with his other classmates growing up in cities.
Smart and diligent, Qu has always been a role model during every stage of his school life. He was admitted to Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, one of the best colleges in China for science and technology. Qu scored 680 (out of 750) on an exam similar to SAT in China.
"Do you know I’m jealous of you? You are handsome, smart and always had high GPA," said a friend who wrote a condolence for Qu on the Chinese social media Renren.com.
Qu could play the piano almost at a professional level. He wrote calligraphy with both hands. He also was a lover of Tae Kwon Do.
Qu’s friends in China and at USC described him as an introvert with a small social network. "As long as he opens his heart to you, he is very loyal and dependable," said one friend. "We are so sad that we lost such a good pal."
He was also a traditional Chinese son who thought of rewarding his parents for putting him through school. "You said you wanted to work soon so that you can make money and improve your parents’ lives,“ recalled Yang at the memorial service. "Parents always rank number one in your mind."
Yang said Qu encouraged and helped him a lot when he was applying to USC after Qu came to study here.
"You always told me to come and see how great USC is and how we can realize our dream together. I still remember that you accompanied me to the Philippines to take the GRE test," recalled Yang in the memorial service. "I couldn’t accept the fact the you have left me. I still insisted on you would come back from the school, then we’ll have dinner together."
Friends say Qu and Wu were nearly inseparable. Wu was born in October 1988. She grew up in Changde, Hunan province, in a city in the southern part of China. Her father is a policeman and her mother is a retired textile factory worker.
"You told me you went to watch the 3D Titanic. You were moved by the great love and you said life is unpredictable," Ye Jing, Wu’s best friend, said at the memorial service.
Wu graduated from Beijing Information Science and Technology University in 2010 and came to the USC that fall, majoring in Digital Signal Processing.
Nice, open and easygoing, Wu had many friends both in and out of the Viterbi School.
"When I knew the student killed was a Chinese graduate in Viterbi, my first reaction was to call Wu," one of her classmates said. "But she didn’t answer it and it went to the voicemail. My heart sank. When it was confirmed that she was the one, my tears immediately rolled down."
Another student remembered the last time he saw her. "She asked me to come over to her home and she will cook for me after the finals are done," said the Chinese graduate student. “But she’ll never have that chance.”
Her friends remember Wu as optimistic, sensitive, patient, eager to help others and never one to get angry.
"Whenever you see her, she smiles," said one classmate.
Wu was described as a loyal friend during the memorial.
"You are always optimistic. You get up early every morning because you don’t want to waste time,” said Ye. "You said you were so excited because you would fly back to China to attend the wedding of your friend. You were excited because it would be the first you attended your friend’s wedding and you would cook for your parents."
Wu was good at the computer programming languages C++ and Matlab. She helped others with programming and coding.
"Your dream is to be a superwoman in IT technology,” Ye said. “You always dreamed to found your own company and we all said we wanted to work for you."
Peers characterized Qu as helpful.
"Once she saw me having trouble with programming, she came to me and said she could help," said a Chinese student who took a same class with Wu.
But majoring in engineering for a girl is not an easy thing after all. Wu studied hard. "I always saw her in Leavy library. Sometimes very late at night, even 4 a.m.," said one student.
A friend of Wu wrote a note about Wu on Ren Ren, recalling a class they took together- EE586. Several students teamed up to do a project on American Sign Language. The professor asked her, "Do you understand American sign language?" She said, "No, but we can learn from online tutorials."
She had recently been approved to work in the lab of the School of Medicine, helping with web design and databases.
In many ways, Wu was no different than many young women.
Her favorite color was pink. She liked singing.
“You start to sing right after you get in to the restroom,” her roommate wrote in her blog post on Renren. "Do you know we laugh at you outside?"
She was a foodie but was recently on a diet. She practiced Yoga at home. She was also a fan of the American TV series “Friends.”
In the past several weeks, she had told her friends that she wanted to have good luck this year in time to graduate and hunt for jobs.
Wu and Qu were not spoiled children from rich families. Wu’s friends say she usually wore common clothes, no fancy stuff. She compared the price of goods in the supermarket and chose the cheapest one.
"The parents of Wu and Qu are both ordinary Chinese. They work hard to support their kids to study oversea," said the vice-president of Viterbi school, Qin Sizhao, who accompanied their parents upon their arrival in Los Angeles.
"Actually they kept saying it was their fault not able to make more money so that their kids can afford housing in safer area," said Sizhao.
The memorial service for Wu and Qu was held on April 19, the seventh day of their death. In Chinese tradition, this is the day their souls go back home.
"Our memories will pave the way to heaven for you," Ye concluded in her speech.