A community of outsiders can comfort a mother to know that her daughter was in the right place to pursue her dream, even if that quest barely begins.
Hyeongsoon Kang and her husband, Youngche Ki, are scheduled to fly home today to Anyang, South Korea, after a week in Harrisonburg, an unscheduled trip after the death of Doyeon Ki, their 21-year-old daughter.
Ki was killed Jan. 1 on Va. 42 as she was walking back to the home of Jeongih Han, her host who lived just north of the city.
Since childhood, Ki had dreams of becoming a nurse, sometimes poking toys as if she were injecting them with needles, her mother said. She was set to enroll this week in Eastern Mennonite University’s Intensive English Program before pursuing a degree at the school.
Ki arrived in the United States on Dec. 23.
Thanks to Harrisonburg resident Philip Yoder, her presence will stay.
“I’m from this community. It hurts when a tragedy like this happens. This could have been my sister. It could have been my friend. It breaks my heart,” he said through tears Thursday.
Yoder, 21, is a junior at EMU whose family’s home on Sharon Lane is near where Ki was killed. “Deeply moved” by what happened, he said, he built a 4-foot cross with Ki’s name on it and placed it Thursday afternoon at the site — 20 feet off the road and in front of Kreider Four Seasons Equipment Inc. at 1880 Harpine Highway — with about 40 people present, including the woman’s parents.
“It’s just so real,” Yoder said.
Virginia State Police Sgt. F.L. Tyler said he had no new information on the crash Thursday. Last week, police said multiple vehicles, including a Broadway rescue squad unit returning to its station, struck Ki as she was in the right lane of northbound traffic near Hamlet Drive, just north of the city’s Harmony Square shopping center.
The incident occurred around 10 p.m. It’s unclear why Ki was in the roadway — there are no sidewalks in that vicinity — and not immediately known where she was returning home from, but attendees at Thursday’s ceremony attribute her unfamiliarity with the area to the incident.
Yoder said drivers could be more aware, too.
“We can drive slower here. We can do something. We can have [street] lights,” he said. “It’s not right.”
During Thursday’s ceremony, people placed flowers under the cross. Kang spent several minutes on her knees, overcome with emotion.
It was a final release while in the city, but she’s not leaving filled with sadness.
“[At first] I really just complained to God about it happening,” Kang said through an interpreter, James Rhee, the pastor at Park View Korean Church. “When I came here … I thought we might have three people at the funeral service. So many people came over and they really heartfully took care of my family and that’s inspiring. … My anger and discouragement scaled down and down and down.”
Yoder played a major role in that reversal.
“I’m watching my son discover that this community has a huge heart and really does care when there are tragedies,” said Elwood Yoder, the EMU student’s father.
And the younger Yoder isn’t the only one to make that observation.
“I really want to express my deep appreciation to the Harrisonburg community and the EMU community. Many times, many times,” Kang said.
Article courtesy of the Daily News Record (Harrisonburg, Va.), Jan. 10, 2014