A Chinese man in Beijing walks past a huge screen reporting on the Boston… (Andy Wong / AP )
BEIJING -- At precisely 9 a.m. Monday in Boston, Lingzi posted a photograph on her Chinese microblog page of a plate of bread and vegetables, next to a smiley face and a caption that read, “My wonderful breakfast!”
It might have been her last meal.
The 23-year-old Boston University graduate student, whose family has asked that her surname not be used, has been identified as the third fatality from the Boston Marathon bombing, which took place less than six hours later.
Lingzi was among nearly 200,000 Chinese studying in the United States.
Like many Chinese of her generation, she was a prolific microblogger, posting frequently on Sina Weibo about her friends, the movies and television shows she liked -- and most of all about food. Homesick for Chinese food, she sought out dumpling restaurants in New York and a Sichuan restaurant in the Boston suburbs. When she arrived in the United States, Lingzi baked her first cake (most Chinese don’t have ovens) and bought a waffle iron.
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In her homepage photograph, Lingzi is shown in a cream-colored, lace-trimmed dress, her hair combed demurely to one side. The most adventurous touch were her turquoise-colored fingernails. She painted her nails, she wrote, to prevent herself from biting them. She also posted pictures of her two dogs and a Teddy bear she kept on her pillow.
Lingzi moved to Boston in August to get a master's degree in actuarial science, the study of risk. Her comments about her life on the Chinese site and on Facebook were invariably cheerful and positive, often punctuated by exclamation marks. "I love the Charles River at night!" she wrote. "Chocolate makes me happy."
Her only recorded complaint was that she hadn’t found out in time that a truck in Harvard Square was giving out free samples of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. "You didn’t tell me earlier," wrote Lingzi, adding an emoticon of a crying face.
Judging by her postings, it did not appear Lingzi came from a wealthy family.
She hunted bargain fruit at Boston's Haymarket and Trader Joe's, and she fretted when the application fee for her student visa went up from $140 to $160. Her favorite television show was "2 Broke Girls," a sitcom about roommates starting a cupcake business.
In her blog, at least, she didn’t express much interest in dating except to lament that one of her favorite television actors was gay.
Originally from Shenyang in northeastern China, Lingzi was a top student at her high school who did well enough to go on to the Beijing Institute of Technology. Yang Yongkun, a high school teacher, was quoted in the Chinese news media as saying, "The girl is very smart. Although she graduated some years ago, I still remember her."
It was about 2.50 a.m. in China, 12 hours ahead of Boston, when the bombs exploded, so there was little immediate reaction. But by midday in China, midnight in Boston, Lingzi’s parents and grandparents were in a panic that she hadn’t called. Electronic messages were zipping across the globe between friends in the U.S. and China.
"Please help me find my roommate. Today, she might have been out watching the marathon. ... She hasn’t returned home until now," wrote her Boston University roommate, a Chinese student using the English name Bauhinia, just past 1 a.m. Boston time on the Chinese site.
By the next day, the roommate had been in contact with another Chinese student, Zhou Danling, who was hospitalized for injuries from the bombing and had gone to the marathon with Lingzi. But she had no information.
"Lingzi, where are you now?’’ wrote the roommate, noting that Lingzi had a poor sense of direction. "I know you get lost so easily. Don’t worry. We will find you."
Lingzi was identified as the third victim of the bombings on Tuesday night. By midday Wednesday, more than 10,000 Chinese had posted comments on her microblog page under the photograph of the last breakfast.
"Rest in peace! Hope you can be happy in Heaven and continue to make delicious food on the other side," wrote one visitor to her microblog.
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