At Johns Hopkins University services, slain senior Linda Trinh is remembered as a popular and gifted student with a big heart and a ready smile on her face.

Friends, family mourn promising life cut short

February 03, 2005|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Her favorite professor praised Linda Trinh as a quick study in medical research. Friends recalled her late-night advice, her fondness for Care Bears, her smile. Volleyball teammates gave her parents her No. 2 jersey. And the president of the Johns Hopkins University choked back tears as he spoke of a promising life that ended too soon.

As many as 1,200 classmates, sorority sisters and professors gathered in a campus gymnasium yesterday to remember the effervescent 21-year-old senior and to grieve her violent death. The university canceled morning classes for the memorial service.

Trinh, a popular biomedical engineering major who dreamed of attending medical school, was found suffocated two Sundays ago in the bathtub of her high-rise apartment across the street from campus.

There was no sign of a break-in, leading investigators to conclude she might have known her assailant. Homicide detectives have several leads that they believe could soon result in an arrest, a police spokesman said yesterday.

Trinh was the second Hopkins student to be killed in nine months, unnerving many on the campus of 4,000 undergraduates in North Baltimore. Junior Christopher Elser was stabbed in an apartment building rented by his fraternity last spring.

The killings have startled a city that has grown accustomed to a dreary toll of daily homicides and prompted the university to tighten security. This week, Hopkins announced that it would spend an additional $2 million to hire armed guards, step up foot patrols and check dorm entrances.

Hopkins President William R. Brody, who has spent the past 10 days reassuring anxious students and parents, opened the memorial service by summing up the bewilderment over Trinh's death.

"How can we make sense of, and how can we accept, that which is but should not be?" Brody said. "Linda Trinh, whose humor and joy, whose optimism and promise for the future is so evident all around us, was ripped untimely from this life.

"Today, here at Johns Hopkins, grief has us by the shoulders," he concluded. "We would all wish to be free of grief, but to do so we would have to stop remembering Linda. And that we will not do."

Relatives from Vietnam

Her parents, Quy and Hoan Trinh, Vietnamese immigrants who escaped by boat and found a better life in Silver Spring, sat silently in front. Next to them was her older brother, Quang, and three dozen relatives, many of whom had flown from Vietnam for her funeral and memorial service.

There was storytelling, poetry and song, as eight of Trinh's college friends eulogized her from a makeshift stage draped in pink, her favorite color. Most of all, there were tears.

The speakers recalled Trinh as an accomplished student who dreamed of getting a research job after graduation and then applying to Stanford University's School of Medicine. They remembered her as a devoted friend, always ready to talk, study or grab a cup of coffee.

`Addicted to her smile'

"I was addicted to her smile, her shrug, her stories, her commentary," said Karina Schumacher-Villasante, a senior studying writing. "Most of all, I was addicted to her laugh. ... This was no ordinary laugh. It was natural, full-hearted and addictive. She taught me how to find the good and laugh at the bad. Thank you, Linda."

Rushmi Ramakrishna, 21, a senior in Hopkins' international studies program, said: "The only thing that has made me feel better is to stop asking why Linda died and begin thinking about why Linda lived."

Sarah Hwang, 22, recalled the first day she met the "smiley, bright-eyed burst of energy" that was Trinh.

Some of Hwang's recollections were lighthearted: their mutual love of meatball subs, the way she called Trinh her "sweet pea." But she also said that Trinh returned from a six-week trip to Vietnam last summer with a new personal dream.

Trinh had spent time in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City studying breast-cancer detection and AIDS. Moved by her work with orphaned AIDS children, whom she taught English and took to the beach, Trinh announced she no longer wanted to be a doctor but was determined to work on finding a cure for devastating diseases.

"She wanted to make a difference in the world," said Hwang, a 2004 Hopkins graduate who lives in New York City. "She did. Ask her family. Ask me. Ask the person who sat next to her in class."

`A difference in my life'

"Linda was beautiful. Linda was loving. Linda made a difference in my life." Breaking down, she added: "Pea, you mean the world to me. I never had the chance to tell you how much."

Trinh's brother ended the service with a slide show of her as a child and as a Hopkins student. Accompanying the family snapshots was the text of a poem Trinh wrote when she left Vietnam, words her family now cherish as a final farewell.

"Thank you for all the laughs. Thank you for all the smiles. I had a great time getting to know you," Trinh wrote to the AIDS orphans in Ho Chi Minh City.

"Please don't be sad when I leave. I will miss you all a lot."

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