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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 7, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 21
A Goodbye Too Soon

Linda Trinh's family with President and Mrs. Brody

Hopkins community gathers to celebrate the life of slain student

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

More than 1,200 members of the Johns Hopkins University community packed the gymnasium of Homewood's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center on Wednesday morning to memorialize Linda Trinh, a fallen classmate, pupil, friend and family member.

Trinh, a 21-year-old biomedical engineering major from Silver Spring, Md., was found dead on Sunday, Jan. 23, in her residence in a privately owned building across Charles Street from the Homewood campus. The case, currently under investigation, has been determined to be a homicide.

Those gathered at the service came to remember, or learn of, Trinh's love of comfort food, Care Bears, high-heeled shoes and the color pink. Friends recalled Trinh's quick and infectious smile and the way she could instill comfort in others with just a shrug of her shoulders and a laugh. Then there were the recurring words used to describe Linda Trinh: intelligent, generous, devoted, compassionate, kind, perky, beautiful and caring.

The diminutive young woman with a huge heart clearly touched many in her four years at Johns Hopkins, borne out by the words of friends and family who honored her memory with touching and tear-filled reminiscences of a soul that is gone but never to be forgotten.

President William R. Brody opened the service, which was attended by the university's deans and senior administration, 50 members of Trinh's family and hundreds of students who, if they did not know her beforehand, came to know a buoyant life full of promise and joy.

Brody spoke of Trinh's optimism and potential, and how "she was abducted from us all."

A candlelit table with books to record remembrances

"Yet this assembly makes clear, if ever anyone made good of her time allotted, it was Linda," he said. "So many friends, so many achievements, so much to show in scarcely two decades' time. Linda was a loving daughter, a supportive sister, a good friend and engaging pupil. These are the qualities by which she is remembered. This is the Linda we have come to celebrate today."

He also talked of the shared pain the campus was feeling.

"We will never be fond of this grief, but we will learn to accept it," said Brody, who wrestled through his own emotion in his closing words. "In doing so, each of us in our own small way lights a flame of enduring love to Linda's memory."

The daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Trinh was a past president of her sorority, Alpha Phi, and a former member of the university's volleyball team. She was also an accomplished student and promising researcher who was twice named to the dean's list and was one of 16 engineering students selected last spring to receive a Vredenburg Scholarship, an honor that allowed Trinh to travel to Vietnam, where she studied breast cancer detection and AIDS-related dementia.

Joseph Gitlin, an associate professor of radiology at the School of Medicine, told those gathered of Trinh's academic ability and her warm spirit. For her first three years at Johns Hopkins, Trinh worked as an assistant in Gitlin's research lab, devising ways to use digital mammography to bring breast cancer screening to women in poor communities.

Gitlin told those gathered about a bright student who impressed colleagues with her quick grasp of research goals, theories and technology.

"Linda Trinh was a dedicated student who was determined to make a major contribution to the health and welfare of others," he said. "My wife and I got to know the Trinh family, who turned out to be neighbors, and we became friends. ... I really believe that through her family's support and the encouragement by her friends, her accomplishments in her soft-spoken, humorous way have made her short life a success. She really is a credit to this university and especially to her family."

Friends who came on the pink-lit stage to memorialize Trinh described her as a "smiling burst of energy," a "generous soul" and someone "who made you feel better about yourself."

"Once you met her, you couldn't do anything but know her, love her and want to protect her," said Jamie Dutton, a senior biology major.

Erin Trish, a senior biomedical engineering major, said that perhaps one of Trinh's strongest qualities was her ability to make others around her completely comfortable.

"Everyone who met her was guaranteed to like her," Trish said. "Everyone found her adorable, sweet, intelligent and endearing."

"Broken Dreams," a poster at the memorial service

Quang Trinh, Linda's brother, also spoke on stage and introduced a video montage of Trinh at work and play, voiced over by words of goodbye that Trinh herself wrote to the orphans at Mai Hoa, Vietnam — words, Quang Trinh said, that now allowed his sister to "say goodbye to us all."

Thank you for all the laughs. Thank you for all the smiles. I had a great time getting to know you. You are all wonderful people. You are hardworking. And caring. Please don't be sad. When I leave, I will miss you all a lot.

Classes were suspended from 10 a.m. to noon for the memorial service and the reception that followed.

Before and after the ceremony, the gymnasium space filled with the sounds of Trinh's favorite songs, such as Christina Aguilera's Beautiful, a tune that friends said she would play over and over.

Following the service, many students embraced and then gathered around memorial walls plastered with photos of a smiling Trinh. They saw Trinh the volleyball player, Trinh the fun-loving sorority sister, Trinh the lover of stuffed animals and Trinh the earnest student.

On one wall hung a five-year "Goal Map" that Trinh penned last year, a map now sadly full of her unfulfilled hopes and dreams such as a family trip to the Vatican and being accepted at Stanford Medical School by summer 2006.

Sharon Kugler, the university's chaplain, ended the ceremony with words of comfort.

"As I lay my eyes upon so many of you this morning, I am mindful of our collective brokenness," Kugler said. "As a community we have shared a penetrating experience of loss, and we are walking together in a dreaded darkness. No day, no season will be the same for any of us because Linda has left this earth. Loss does just that, it forces us to dwell in places we dread, to confront our most feared and darkest realities. Because of this, loss also prepares us to live more profoundly. Grief is that slice of life that takes us beyond the boundaries of our mind and makes us see all of life anew."

Linda Trinh, center, at an Alpha Phi party in spring 2003

Trinh, far right, with friends on Water Street in fall 2004

Quy Trinh and Hoan Ngo, Linda's parents, grieve at the service.

More than 1,200 people attended the memorial service in the Recreation Center gym, which was bathed in pink light, a tribute to Trinh's favorite color.


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