About 150 people gathered Friday to mourn the tens of thousands killed by the earthquake that rocked China earlier this month.
“We are standing here to show our respect to people who showed us what dignity and honor are like even as they died,” said Jim Wu, the event’s host, from the center of a heart-shaped arrangement of candles.
“We are here to show the world that, regardless of where we grew up, we are now all members of Sichuan Province,” said Wu, who is also the applications systems analysis and programming manager for the University’s Business Services.
Sichuan was the province in central China hit hardest by the May 12 earthquake. Of the projected 80,000 casualties in the country, some 50,000 may be in Sichuan, according to Chinese officials. The official death toll rose to 65,080 Monday, with 23,150 people still missing, the Associated Press reported.
After a moment of silence, Wu led the crowd through two quiet verses of “Amazing Grace.” While only a few people sang at first, almost the entire crowd joined in to sing the Chinese songs that followed.
As they sang with hands linked and arms raised, many people bowed their heads and cried. In between songs, people hurriedly worked to relight candles that had been extinguished by the wind.
“The purpose is to get all the people to show all the love,” said Simon Zhang, an Ann Arbor resident who organized the vigil. The event was sponsored by the University’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the An-Hua Chinese School in Ann Arbor and the Chinese Association of Greater Detroit.
In welcoming people to the Diag, Wu began by thanking 25 top officials from China’s most prestigious universities and government agencies for attending. The officials came to the vigil after a banquet hosted by University President Mary Sue Coleman. They were visiting as part of the conclusion of the University’s theme year, China Now.
Towards the end of the vigil, two men moved through the crowd with Styrofoam coolers, asking for donations for earthquake relief. The event was just the beginning of the CSSA’s fundraising effort, said Lang Ming, the group’s chair. Ming said the group is soliciting donations through the English Language Institute and the International Center and hopes to work with the Michigan Student Assembly soon. He said he didn’t know how much the group has raised so far.