Service honors Annie Le GRD ’13

As light poured in through Battell Chapel’s stained glass windows, one could almost hear the clickety-clack of Annie Le’s GRD ’13 five-inch heels as friends and teachers described her as a funny and intelligent girl with big dreams.

At a University memorial service Monday, Le, who went missing a little over a month ago, was remembered as a brilliant scientist who adored designer fashion and fried chicken.

“Her outside beauty was no match for her inner beauty,” Le’s friend Tara Bancroft GRD ’14 said. An enlarged photo of Le’s smiling face stood at the front of the room.

Outside the chapel, all gates to Old Campus were locked and a Yale ID was required to enter. Police officers stood outside the Chapel to make sure no cameras were allowed inside. Police officers in dress uniforms, their badges and detailing shining in gold, led Le’s family and close friends into the chapel. Among the guests, who filled most of the center rows of the bottom floor of the chapel, were Le’s mother, Vivian Van Le, and Le’s fiance, Jonathan Widawsky.

The service opened with the music of Johannes Brahms, played on piano by Robert Blocker, dean of the School of Music. Pharmacology student Michelle Mo GRD ’14 played a haunting violin piece by John Barry that faded out with a striking high note.

Le’s adviser, Anton Bennett, an associate professor of pharmacology, spoke of Le’s scientific prowess, explaining that a paper she co-wrote will be published posthumously. Bennett also shared what he called “Annieisms,” remarking that he traditionally introduces his students at their doctoral defense presentations by describing some of their “lab quirks.” Since he would never have the opportunity to do this for Le, he said, he decided to share Le’s quirks with the attendees.

Bennett described how Le refused to wear jeans on a particular Friday, despite having to perform a potentially messy experiment.

“Today is skirt Friday,” he recalled her saying. “I always wear skirts on a Friday.”

She bought an electric bagel cutter for their Thursday morning lab meetings, Bennett said, and cut all the bagels before the rest of their lab had arrived.

“It wasn’t good enough just to get an electric bagel cutter,” Bennett said. “But she had to cut all the bagels herself. That was an Annieism.”

Bancroft, Le’s friend, also remembered that Le used to skip out of talks with her friends to get pedicures and used smiley faces in presentations, while still maintaining respect.

But before Le’s friend and teacher shared their memories, Yale administrators reflected on Le’s life. University Chaplain Sharon Kugler welcomed guests to the service, and Reverend Robert Beloin, the Roman Catholic Chaplain from St. Thomas More Chapel, offered a prayer. University President Richard Levin then spoke about the closeness of the Yale community.

“When one thread is pulled, the afghan unravels,” Levin said of the Yale community, adding that Le was “a model student for the Yale of the 21st century.”

Graduate School Dean Jon Butler followed Levin, describing Le’s love of science and of the people she knew. During the service, Psalm 23 was read in Vietnamese by Dan Nguyen, whom Le considered her brother, and in English by Alexandra Teixeira GRD ’14.

Slipped inside the program was a flyer on translucent pink, flowered paper, printed with a picture of Le, an image of Winnie the Pooh flying a kite and quotes from “The Tao of Pooh” — fitting for a girl who Bancroft said he hopes is in a place filled with designer handbags, a Popeye’s restaurant on every corner and no more disease.

Following the service, there was a reception for friends and family at the Graduate Club on Elm Street.

On Sept. 13, the day Le was supposed to be married, her body was found behind a wall in the basement of 10 Amistad St., the Yale research facility where she conducted experiments. Raymond Clark III, an animal lab technician who worked at Yale, was arrested on Sept. 17 and charged with Le’s murder.

Comments

  • Stephen

    Its the least Yale could do.
    Since Yale has to share the blame in her death. ONly security cameras outside the building none inside. Male techs working with female students. Bad backround checks
    done by HR. How could such a smart place do stupid things?
    No security people in the rooms where she was?

  • Manny

    Yale should rightfully pay this family millions, not just based on the vicarious culpability of its employee, but for her pain and suffering (pray that it was quick), and the loss of her income, provided that it can be proven whom was to have benefitted from that income. That’s the cold law.

    That said, there is nothing that can compensate for the loss of her promise to this world– she was working on a cure for cancer, for God’s sake.

    God bless her and her family. What a beautiful woman.

  • Ron

    How can Yale be liable for Le’s death? I doubt that a standard background check on Raymond Clark would have turned up anything that would have disqualified him from being a lab technician. You think everyone’s ex-girlfriend would be interviewed on a background check for anger issues? As far as security cameras go, if you have them inside a workplace environment, you create a sense of Big Brother watching you. And security personnel inside a secure lab, where you need a key card in order to gain access in the first place? Give me a break. She was in one of the safest places on campus. Companies can’t be liable for their employees going beserk, because you can’t tell which ones will go off, or what will set them off. Anne Le’s death was tragic, but the blame lies with Raymond Clark, and only him, not Yale.

  • Kan

    I happen to agree with Ron. However, in today’s society, we’re always looking for a way to shift blame to an institution that has money and can give us some for our misfortunes.

    It is a sad and tragic event, but requiring card access for each level of that building is of the highest security without having body guards following you everywhere you go.

    Stop blaming Yale because regardless of what kind of checks that were done would not have shown any qualities that would have disqualified him for the job.

    And as far as Stephen’s comments – male/female work relationships have no bearing in justification or prevention. Males and females work together on a consistent basis and never is an issue. Unless you make it one.

  • sasquatchmoon

    what happened to Annie Le was an act of pure evil,an evil wich manifested itself in our world and found in Ray Clark a perfect vessel in wich to commit a crime, so terrible that its only purpose was to cause dispare so great that it shakes the fondation of ones faith.God had nothing to do with this sad and tragic loss.The brutality of hear death and the desicration of her remains to the discovery of her poor broken body on what was to be her wedding day just seems such a planned tragedy that one must wonder if evil is a true force of nature with a concious thought able to intervene at anytime to esculate a bad situation and exploit it to its own purpose, that purpose being to destroy our faith and ability to find peace and happiness in a world so troubled with war and hate and above all greed.I never knew any I never will and yet she has such a hold on me I feel I’ll never shake her loss.I have changed,in her memory I’ll try to be a better person.

  • AlexS

    Amen #5.
    To other Yalies, perhaps Yale is to blame, or perhaps not. However, because of the millions awarded for “Hostile Environment” lawsuits, it is no longer enough simply to have a policy in place.

    People who fail to take tedious annual training are tracked and held accountable by senior management, and yes one can be fired for refusing to do so. Managers must report all incidents – no matter how trivial – for independent investigation or lose their jobs. I know, because I personally had to deal with not one, but two such incidents, leading to termination of the individual. People had actually become afraid to work with him; he was brilliant, but extremely unstable and unpredictable.

    A major part of the training is concerns reporting, it is everyone’s responsibility. Management cannot act unless they are made aware and once management has been made aware, they are liable for failing to take action. People who report incidents can be guaranteed anonymity and protection from reprisal, but the caveat is that if there is a pattern of unsubstantiated accusations, then the reporter may be held accountable.

    With respect to males and females working together in pairs, yes that can work, but sometimes it most definitely does not. As painful as it may seem, working in teams is a better model.

  • Helen Li

    Yale has a responsiblity to Annie’s death. Raymond Clark’s sister and brother-in-law and girlfriend were employed in the same lab. Clark had been described as “angry,” “officious,” and “bullying.” Why has nobody reported him? Is it because there is no avenue for voicing concerns.? Was it because Clark was indulged in and protected by his family members who might be his line manager as well? Was it because it was very hard to sack a union member like Clark and people just could not be involved in lengthy proceedings? Why was Clark hired? He was employed straight out of high school. Was there a open, competitive process in hiring at Yale? Was the Union implicit in the hiring and and the discipliary process that turned out to be non-existenst or not deployed? Yale and the Police and the Mayor’s offices had all been disrespectful to Annie by slapping a cold administrative label on her unusual and horrifc death in a secured part of the campus. It was no ordinary “work place violence,” but a strangling of a tiny female by a much stronger male in the most terrifying, prolonged slaying (it takes about 5 minutes to suffocate a person to death by hand.) Richard Levin should not have said, “it could have happened in any campus etc.” before the facts of the case was analysed and his failure to protect his students coming under scrutiny. He should not have muttered, “it has more to do with the darkness of the human soul,” because it has more to do with employing and indulging in Clark continued presence in the first place. Annie’s family should sue Yale.

  • Helen Li

    I am sorry for the clerical errors in the above message typed out in a hurry. One other thing, I want an inquiry to be held as soon as the court case is concluded. Witnesses should be called to establish whether Annie had been intimidated by the suspect and/or others before the tragedy. Did she tell any of her roommates, friends, or family about anything related to it? If so, was anything done about it? As for the memorial itself, it was something that gives some comfort to her family; they need the recognition of her place among the best and the brightest in America. For a lot of immigrants, that is a dream come true; an achievement that confers true validation of their place in their new country. But Yale should not think that establishing a scholarship in her name, or giving a tribute like this is enough; nor should her family be fobbed off by those well-practised gestures that the rich and powerful use to “close the book” on those considered to be “not really one of us.” Many of her friends and supervisors told of how girly and funny she was; and how those “ordinary” qualities did not detract her serious academic pursuits. The fact is somebody like Annie is nothing “ordinary.” Thornton Wilder said, “the future author is very much NOT a part of the community; the future scientist is eight times more removed from the common herd.” Since the news broke, I have read many accounts of research students being in fear of laboratory assistants that can make or break their lifework; and the anger and hatred of the latter against the former’s “arrogance,” and “superiority.” The rage of the mediocre against the gifted can only be understood in acknowleding the apartness of people of high intelligence. I have a niece in Cambridge, England, who is just like Annie. She too camouflages her sharp intellect with an easy-going manner, bursting into pop songs at the drop of a hat. That was her way of blending with people like me who can never figure out what is going on “up there” with her. In Annie’s case, she was murdered because someone inferior and limited could not deal with her seemingly effortless ascent to a stella future and a Vietnamese at that. Unless the universities recognize this fact and do more to protect their treasures (and that was what Annie was,) incidents like this in varying degree would recur again and again. Complaint procedures, open discussions to promote empathy and understanding involving both camps, strict protocols of professional conduct, employment based on open, competitive processes should all be considered. I know that Annie’s admirers were well-meaning by painting a vibrant and joyous picture of her short life. But before the serious questions are looked into and answered, I don’t have the heart to revel in the “Annie, the one and only” kind of reminiscences being aired in public.

  • AlexS

    To Helen Li,
    I agree, you are correct. I gave to the I have a dream foundation, which was the wishes of both her family and her fiancee – not to Yale.

    I personally work in high security areas that would make 10 Amistad look like central park with respect to security; one can’t carry cell phones, everything is watched, and the guards have real guns.

    Workplace violence can happen anywhere, which is why it is so important to have a policy with teeth in it, that is 100% back by the CEO on down – holding everyone accountable.

    I HAD a person who could not be counseled, drove one woman into therapy, caused two people to report to their own external companies – almost bringing on two lawsuits – and he fitted the description of Clark almost like a glove.

    Although I would have fired him immediately, if I had thought of the possibility of imminent danger; I had him sequestered from others…no one could meet with him – anywhere one-on-one…until I had recieved formal approval for his termination, blessed by HR and senior management. We had a process that worked.

    Over time I had to deal with another individual with respect to sexual harrassment, and again the process worked; it was a misunderstanding, but still had to formally reported and managed.

  • Helen Li

    Thank you so much AlexS for your invaluable insight into the subject of how a robust action plan to ensure maximum employee safety should look like. My anger has been building up over the past few weeks at the way the relevant authorities handled the tragic event. Richard Levin standing there on the steps of Yale with a union lady banging the drums of the “need for action against violence towards women in the workplace” before Annie was even laid to rest. Maybe they should look at how they had failed Annie in the first place. And the mantra of “work place violence” assumed the connotation of almost an act of nature. “It is a random event,” “it could have happened in any university, on any campus,” “it is not an act of domestic violence, not an act of urban violence, not an act of university violence, it is an act of work place violence which is becoming more and more common.” On and on they spouted; one would be forgiven to forget that a tiny, young female had been choked to extinction by a burly, violent man in a place of scientific research of the highest level. To be continued.

  • Helen Li

    Cont:
    Your statement about some troubled employee you dealt with having traits that fit the profile of the suspect to a “T” was like a blow to my guts. Your system would have picked him up and had him isolated or fired. The impression I got of the Yale staff culture is one of getting help on the cheap, nepotism, non-existent disciplinary procedures etc. In a lab where intensive, high-valued research is undertaken in a closed atmosphere, problems in personal relations could be doubly strained and tension magnified, especially between people of vastly different abilities and prospects. The need for onflict resolution becomes even more significant in such an environment. It is for very good reasons that family members are often not encouraged to work together. Human nature being what it is, favouritism, bullying, covering up for each other, becoming territorial and proprietorial, all that would come into play. How on earth could Yale be so backward to let Human Resources allowing such practices? Annie was supposed to have received a text message from the alleged murderer. It was like a maid summoning her mistress on the carpet. How was it possible for a lowly lab worker to behave like that to a scholar of her calibre? Shouldn’t there be some line manager who reported that to Annie’s supervisor? The Union lady Laura Smith should tell us why it is almost impossible ( a tortuous process is involed) to sack somebody like Clark. A job for life at 24 years of age? Are we living in the 21st Century?

    As for hardware provisions, some had said that CCTVs are not conducive to the the kind of work undertaken at Annie’s lab, and that it would be too intrusive for individuals; that the system of card access in every level and every room provides adequate security; that human behavior could not be totally under control. The last we have dealt with. As to the technological safeguards, one should not rely on conventional wisdom alone. As long as the tapes are priviledged and protected, no outsider could view them. I think students would welcome security over a small intrusion of their privacy if given a choice. I also heard some students had complained about lack of mobile phone signals in the basement area of the lab. Card access was a semi-farce as students had told of stories of doors being held opened for strangers etc. and people who have access are not necessarily without danger. You idea of safety in numbers is sound. That is what I tell my nieces every day: that and avoid desolate and badly lit areas, plan you journey, always have access to contact, look confident and don’t drink. To all Yale student, if you really care for Annie, don’t just “celebrate” her life. Ask questions, DEMAND actions, because she should not be “commemorated,” she should be walking in your midst with all the world’s wonder in front of her!

  • sasquatchmoon

    Amen Helen Li like you I am filled with rage.I read that at 12:40 a fire alarm was set off.All were evacuated,but then again all were not evacuated where was Annie!police where there weren’t firemen there too?did noone check too see if all had left the building?that there was noone left inside.If you need an electronic access to get inside shouldn’t there be a list of who is there and if all are not accounted for shouldn’t they have tried to locate that person if only to make sure they were ok,not trapped inside.I can’t help but wonder, had they been thorough,they would have noticed she was missing if she was so noticed and known by all,and would they had wanted to question her,as they did clark and others.If she left then where did she go?My heart breaks when i can’t help but wonder if they would have realized she was missing and searched for her inside and found evidence of foul play the same evidence clark was observed cleaning up,and if by some mercy found her in that wall,was there a chance that she might have still been alive albeit unconcious and in critical condition but able to be helped.My heart it breaks with sadness.Regardless of her heritage she was a person someones daughter,and to her fiance,i’m sure his life,her abscence should have been noticed,God knows it’s noticed now.that’s all can say for now because it just hurts so

  • AlexS

    To Helen Li:
    You are a wonderful and insightful individual; you would be an asset to any team.

    Coupled with a mandatory policy with regard to ‘hostile work environment’ and ‘sexual harassment’, my company has two distinct policies, is of code of ethics and professional behavior – which everyone must sign; they are absolutely not insignificant, because refusal to sign off is grounds for dismissal – while signing them creates a baseline for potential dismissal for failure to abide by the requirements of employment. Employees must sign these documents and take training in both ‘hostile work environment’ and ‘sexual harassment’ on an annual basis, which is tracked at the highest levels of management; believe me, something hits the fan when this isn’t done.

    The code of ethics and behavior spells out that interpersonal business relationships are always to be respectful and professional (period) – no exception! Any deviation from this standard becomes an actionable item with respect to management.

    No employee at any level is ever allowed to demean another for any reason. If one employee notices another breaking some procedural protocol, all they can do is to professionally communicate the infraction and then report to management. With regards to Mr Clark, he should never have been allowed to do anything, but report infractions to management – NEVER to engage in less than professional behavior!

    With respect to isolated work areas, I believe in teams of three at minimum. A single disgruntled employee may either steal or sabotaged sensitive work. Two may keep an eye on one another and the third is always available to sound an alarm. There is always safety in numbers, even for relatively mundane work.

    One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that individuals can change for better or worse. The individual that I had to fire was at one time an excellent employee, but for whatever reason he became unhinged, unpredictable, paranoid, and bitter. Who is to say what the root cause was: drugs, alcohol, relationships…legally management cannot ask, nor can management require psychological counseling.

    With respect to “everyone’s responsibility” to report, that is a no brainer. Often workplace victims are either afraid of repercussions, or they simply hope that things will get better, which is simply not true. If someone were to notice a fire, would they simply walk away? We all know the real answer.

    With respect to implementing policies, once people see that management means what it says, then work place incidents dramatically decline – and not so oddly, morale improves.

  • Alexander Sprague

    Helen Li:
    Please do not take offense, I too am terribly angered. The level of your anger points to the size of your heart – you really care, as do I and many others.

    While respecting others of all genders, orientations, faiths, and ethnicities; I can only speak from my own knowledge and experiences in this world.

    If I had the faith of a mustard seed
    and words might be more than allegory;
    it would not be a mountain
    that I would move,
    but rather the hands of time.

    Not just for two
    would I bend those hands,
    but for all who have so suffered.

    I wrote a poem as gently as God has graced my hand and sent it to the Yale Chaplain’s office, they did not reply; but I also sent it to a priest who may yet deliver it to her family.

    All that I can say in closing is that Annie did touch the world. Unlike Elvis and Michael Jackson, Annie was no music icon; she was unknown to this world other than to her friends, family, and fiancée. Yet her story was heard around the world, and the hearts of strangers broke. Think about it, to capture the attention of so many for so long; I have never seen such a thing in my life. I have read hundreds of entries from people around the world, who have grieved for her as if she had been their own child. Go to Legacy.com and see.

    I have always believed that we as humans are the sum of all that we have learned, seen, heard and done; it is why we change as we age. This incident has had a profound effect on me and many others. I will never forget her story, nor will I ever again be quite the same as I was before. I will post this poem here at Yale for the last time.

    Annie Le

    A star was born in heaven one night
    although small she brightly shone
    to chase away through endless days
    the night that turns to dawn

    An angel born before her time
    she had won so many hearts
    whose mischievous eyes could not belie
    the heart that lay within

    Mortal friends had shared, of laughter rare
    leaving none the same
    She could fill a room
    with her life’s bloom
    though only memories, now remain

    A million strangers away did weep
    and a million tears did flow
    like endless rivers through desert seas
    for one they came late, to know

    A million strangers learned her dream
    “I have a dream,” said she
    and my dream will never perish
    if you, remember me.

  • Helen Li

    Thank you Sasquatchmoon. It is sometimes easier for an outsider like me to see some missing links that are not apparent for those closely involved at this point; or express emotions too raw still for her family and friends. They are in a state of shock and denial. You remember the Martha Moxley murder in Bell Haven? It took a LA detective to re-open the case after twenty-five years; and brought justice to her poor mother. The detail about the fire alarm going off should be included in the inquiry. If it is such a secure building, why was the building not locked down for four days after Annie disappeared? As you said, the suspect was seen having the opportunity to clean up in the days after. It was poor police work. You idea of counting in and out is valid. At closing time each day or when the fire alarm is activated, a list should be available to make sure that nobody is left inside. It is very important for Annie to get justice. Court cases can go so wrong. Just look at the Dominique Dunne murder trial. The judge was a clown, totally biased, and gave woefully inadequate intructions to the jury. Vital evidences were ruled inadmissable. The victim’s family was treated rudely. And the defence offered plea bargaining to a much lesser charge when they knew of the killer’s violent history that the jury was not allowed to know. The non-stop chanting of “work place violence” is very damaging to Annie’s case. It could be claimed to prejudice the accused. When the trial starts, it is very important for Annie’s whole family to be there. The jury need to see their faces; otherwise, it woud be just a Vietnamese girl being unlucky. Did you see the press writing “color pieces” about the girlfriend’s wedding magazine and engagement ring and the suspect’s “good ball games” before Annie was even laid to rest? There were stories headed: “What Annie Le Story?” and “Two Weddings Ruined?” Would they write about a Vietnamese killers’ girl friend in those terms, almost gushingly? Would they rue the “ruined wedding plans” of a Vietnamese killer of a white doctoral young girl? Thought not. I heard that the Chapel was half empty during Annie’s memorial. This is shocking to me. We need more support for their family please.

  • Helen Li

    This is a direct question to Mrs. Denise Kent, the suspect Mr. Raymond Clark’s sister. Through all these past weeks, whenever I thought about your family, I only felt compassion. “They were innocent in all this; they must be suffering too,” was my sentiment. But I have forgotten one fact. When still in High School, your brother forced sex on his then girlfriend, and used physical violence on her (though the young female concerned was advised by the Police not to discuss the exact nature of those violent acts at this point.) It was so serious that police escort was deployed to safeguard the girl for a time. Presumably, Mr. Clark, as a mid-teenager, was living at home with his mother; and the whole family, including you, would know about his episode of anger and violence towards women. Nonetheless, as soon as he graduated from high school, he was able to secure a job at the Ivy League University where you and your husband happened to be employed. And what was more, you three worked in the same laboratory. I would hazard to guess that you had some influence to bring this appointment about. Although the former girlfriend did not bring any formal charges; and there was no legal obligation for you or your brother to disclose the event, did you not have the moral duty to come clean to the Human Resource Department about this, and let them decide whether it would be advisable to let the clearly troubled and under-educated young man to work in such close proximity with young research students, especially fragile, female ones in a confined space? Secondly, Mr. Clark was seen often in an officious, angry, and bullying mode. Did you take any action to counsel him as a sister and a co-worker/line manager and/or take any action to resolve the problems? Did you indulge his unprofessional and surly behavior? Was Annie Le ever a subject of discussion in your cosy little family group? Was racist language used in talking about her or any other ethnic female students? Was it encouraged? Something terrible had happened. A universally loved and admired, innocent, friendly, vibrant young scholar was killed in the most horrific and barbaric fashion just days before her wedding. And the world weep for her loss. I think you owe it to her family to answer the above questions at some point.

  • SASQUATCHMOON

    Amen!HelenI too would like an answer to this question.I’m always so amazed how these self proclaimed animal lovers can have so much compassion for all animals big and small and yet be so incapable of understanding or being compassionate of members of their own species.Being a cancer survivor and seeing this disease take away so many of my family and friends and neighbors,usually within a week of their diagnosis,I look at people like Annie Le as the true heroes of this world.I can remember going home after being told I had cancer and slowly beginning to pack away my belongings while pondering how to break the news to my wife,who then was my fiance,and my family and friends,because I was so sure that my time had come.I also remember the exact moment ,months later ,when my doctor personally called me to tell me my cancer was in remission.The research that went into developing the treatments I underwent made Me the first and only cancer survivor I know.I buried my Godfather on sept.28th two days after Annie was buried,He unlike Me, died of cancer.Did your Brother, Denise ,lose sight of the fact that he was just a glorified janitor in the midst of gifted and truly compassionate individuals.God only knows what personal tragedies fueled the drive of Annie Le.Also if you have the guts to reply i’d like to know does your brother keep his cage clean,He should ,he might be spending a long time in it.The sad truth is ,I shouldn’t even know that Annie Le existed unless I read of her research in a medical journal I was reading, while sitting in my doctors office.Her death is a tradgedy,the way She died is an afront to God,the way Her remains where treated is an insult to the diginity of mankind.She might have been the one,to find the cure we’ll never know.I wonder how many lives could a baseball player potentially save.

  • Helen Li

    Alex Sprague, thank you for your kind words. Lets hope that what you have proposed would be a blue-print for all institutions to act on. Yale need to do a root-and-branch review of hiring practices, improve staff credentials, build in monitoring/complaint/disciplinary procedures with total management involvement AND teeth from the top as you said.

    Annie’s family would appreciate your poem. Words are healing, and help us to understand whatever fate befalls us.

    Others have enlightened me about legislations now in place in certain states on work place protocols. All that is welcomed. However, there is also a need for a change in our culture for more respect, tolerance, honesty, and fairness. In my own culture, there is great reverence for people of learning. Perhaps this idea from a old civilization could help to instill more appreciation for people like Annie in your young country? Our world is in flux, we need to salvage what is most precious in human conduct, and embrace new codes to suit the needs of our age. Much require our attention. Look at how the media marginalize minorities and encourage racism. Or how we neglect our elderly and disabled fellow citizens. Or how our governments talk peace and pursue war and destruction. As Justice Brandeis said, “our government is our potent and omnipresent teacher, which for good or ill, teaches a whole people by its examples.”

    Squatchmoon, earlier you said that an act as evil as this would shake our faith to the core. Quite the reverse. It could spur many to right wrongs, shine the spotlight on the “darkness of the soul,” root out the ills of society, and double our compassion for others. You are very brave to have confronted your illness, and I wish fervently for your continual recovery with the help of modern medicine (and maybe some Oriental Meditation!) Yes, Annie was a heroine who was going to save lives and alleviate sufferings with her intelligence and dedication to science. I salute her and honour her and her fellow scientists for their contribution to humanity.

  • Alexander Sprague

    To Helen Li and Squatchmoon,
    Thank you Helen for you kind words, but let me if you will, expose a little of my heart and who I am – which is rare in these days of cyber anonymity. My name is genuine, I hide behind nothing and I am as real as my words.

    My father had many faults and could be the epitome of bigotry; I will not express any more than that because the memory is painful. He was married six times, my mother and the mother of all surviving children was wife number three. With respect to your culture, can you imagine both the boldness and shame of telling one’s father to his face that you would never want to be like him? I say this knowing well many aspects of Chinese, Vietnamese, and most other Asian cultures.

    I’ve had many friends in life from around the world, many: Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Canada, Europe, Africa, South and Central America, the list goes on. I point this out only to say that bigotry knows no geographical or ethnic boundaries – it is practiced everywhere. There are many ethnic groups in China, the predominate being the Han – what challenges face a young man or woman who wish to marry outside of their ethnic group? What happens to many non-ethnic Japanese who might enter into many clubs or restaurants in Japan? I could even tell you of places outside of Washington DC, where outsiders are not welcome.

    A long time ago I loved a woman from Taiwan. Do you have any idea about the way she was treated by her own countryman, because of her feelings for me? She was loved by my family, excepting my father who never met her, and I loved her. Misunderstanding and prejudice drove us apart, but I’ve never forgotten her; she was the flower of the new moon, my Dim Sum. I say this because although there are many who cannot look beyond there own culture without prejudice, there are many who can, and many who have suffered in between.

    I am reminded that many years ago in the riots of Los Angeles, a white trucker was pulled from the cab of his truck to be beaten and kicked by the mob; a stranger, a black minister, jumped into the middle of the crowd and laid across the trucker and with his own body shielded him from the crowd. Many people, myself included, would have shielded Annie with our own bodies had providence afforded us the chance.

  • Alexander Sprague

    continued:

    I too honor Annie Le, and had these events never happened, had I ever met her – I would have treated her like all others – a welcome guest, due the same respect as I would give to any within my own family. God how I would have loved to have written one of my ‘teasing” poems – as I would have written to one of my friends, rather than the one I wrote in tears.

    I too am a cancer survivor. I saw my family doctor in January, by March surgery, by April radiation. My half brother, deceased, died of lung cancer. My half sister, deceased, died of a brain tumor. My adopted father, deceased, died from complications during the treatment for liver cancer. My brother had a malignant tumor, but has survived for twenty years. I’ve been given a 96% to 99% chance of cure, but I’ve known others given similar chances who later succumbed. The bottom line, my faith sustains me, I am thankful for time I may have no matter how long or short.

    I have personally known: friends who committed suicide, men and women who were brutally gang raped, a friend who was killed for a paycheck, two friends whose sisters were murdered: one was a Rockett in NYC, the other a student in Madison Wi – who had literally been tortured to death, the coroner could not determine if it was blood loss or shock from shear pain that had killed her, and a great many who have died from either accident or disease. Sometimes, I feel that I have lived too long, though I am not old.

    I too would want justice for Annie, but it comes with a tremendous price. There is nothing that Annie’s family or her fiancée can do that could bring her back – nothing. I pray for them, to give them strength, because unlike a loved one who has died from accident or disease, there can be no peace for them until these trials have ended – their personal pain will be reopened again and again. Were I their closest friend, I would support them, but never would I encourage them to participate in any trials – out of love for them.

    The future will be what it will be: you, I, we – have no voice.

  • Helen Li

    For the Police, Yale President, Union people, Mayoral Office who have not divined what exactly they had done wrong, please go to YouTube, and log on to “nejournallive” and choose “Chinese students murdered second press conference,” and learn the compassionate way and tone to adopt. Your behavior was one I had never seen before. Do you go around and labelling different crimes and killings as “Snooker Hall Violence,” “Black on Black Violence,” or “University Residence Hall Violence.” Do you go around saying, “this has more to do with the darkness of the human soul rather than any security issues?” Do you start waving banners for “need to act against domestic violence or road rage” when the victim was not even laid to rest? Do you start mouthing “random acts of violence,” or whine to the press about “the phone calls waking up my baby” when a poor girl was killed like that?

  • Helen Li

    Alex, my thoughts are with you, and hope that your doctors’ optimism for your chances of recovery is justified.

    Even in my culture and my generation, my brothers and I did stand up to my father, open his eyes to more enlightened ideas; and won him over on many issues. Take marraige of a Chinese girl to a white man. In my youth, it was considered very “cheap;” and nobody from a “good” family would be allowed to do it without strong feelings being aired. Well, most of my class of schoolmates studied abroad, and some wedded white husbands (which at the time I considered extremely degrading.) People like them helped to change attitude. On the whole, I welcome greater exchange of ideas and education to conquer our prejudices and ignorance.

    As for racial discrimnation in general, we have to look at the historical context. Chinese people might stupidly “look down” on certain races, but they have not committed genocide or engaged in transatlantic slave trade in people of a different color or race. Those unprecedented crimes were done on an industrial and highly organized scale, chiefly for profit. The Chinese’s very prejudices against black people was in fact planted by those vile crimes and propaganda committed and espoused by white people. We did not even know of black people until caucasians invaded and exploited their continent; and we have never done them any harm up to this day. Some people still cannot understand why it is so offensive to be called “chinks.” White folks say, “heck, I don’t mind being called Poms, Limeys, Micks, or Jocks!!!” But don’t you see, being called a “Jock” has no connotation of lynching, Opium Wars, Chinese Exclusion Laws, centuries long non-stop smearing, and on-going systemic and institutionalized discrimination in the job market etc. etc. And being called a “Pom” is not usually followed by actual physcial attacks, bricks through windows, as happend to me personally and many Chinese.

    I have been educated, have lived and worked on three continents. And the way Annie’s murder was handled was something I had never seen before. I have pointed out the anomalies and asked politely whether it had been done before in other crimes in New Haven. I have received no answer, just abuse from readers of the New Haven Independent.

    There are a lot of things we can do for Annie’s family. To support them during the coming trial; and to ask for changes in conditions that led to her death. Heaven forfends that something like that happening to another ethnic minority; but the Police, the Mayor’s Office, and Yale need to know how offensive and disrespectful they have been, and learn to do better. To lose a child is the saddest thing for a parent; but to attend the trial would be one of the last things they could do for her. It is going to be very very hard; but I saw Annie’s mother speaking with great dignity and courage at her funeral and she will do her daughter proud.

  • Alexander Sprague

    Helen Li:
    You bring up some interesting points, you are intelligent, and if you are willing, I will continue to discuss the world, Annie Le, and all other topics. This thread is dying, like Annie; it is passing from the world. You can reach me at asp1121d@yahoo.com, or we can to continue to try to communicate here.

    Are you so sure that your country never had slaves? I am guessing that your ancestry is Chinese, but the Chinese traveled and intermarried through a number of countries. In any case it was often the prerogative of the victor in battle to enslave the losing population in one fashion or another, though admittedly your country might not have actively imported them from other countries as was the case both in Europe and America. In the case of America, it tended to be the victors of African battles who sold their spoils to white Europeans, who in turn tended to sell them to rich plantation owners of the south. The practice would have gone away anyway even if the American civil war had not occurred.

    I can only say that in 1000 plus years of the recorded history of my family, neither indentured servants nor slaves were ever kept. The branches of my family are old, but at the same time all families are old, even if they have lost their memories.

    Yes, I know all too well how China was torn apart by the British, Russians, Italians, many other European nations, and Japan; it is a disgusting chapter in the history of human race. However historically, the Chinese – at least their rulers – are not exempt from having cruelly at times extorted their own people – even in modern times.

    With regard to Asian / Caucasian intermarriage, it was at one time frowned upon in this country by Caucasians as well, something – like you said – degrading. My family, excluding my father was very progressive, they had even encouraged me to marry Suechen, it was other factors which in combination to the prejudicial feelings of her people that destroyed what might have been a happier life; it is a burden I will carry to my grave.

    With regard to Annie Le, I too would seek justice had she been my own child – but I cannot speak as if I were her family, that is a decision that they must make for themselves. As I said, I would support them, but not encourage them; they have borne this tragedy with honor and it would bring them no shame to stand aside.

    It was reported that it was their wish that the ‘sealed’ affidavit remain forever sealed. You can guess what that may mean.

  • Alexander Sprague

    Helen Li:
    You bring up some interesting points, you are intelligent, and if you are willing, I will continue to discuss the world, Annie Le, and all other topics. This thread is dying, like Annie; it is passing from the world. You can reach me at asp1121d@yahoo.com, or we can to continue to try to communicate here.

    I can only say that in 1000 plus years of the recorded history of my family, neither indentured servants nor slaves were ever kept. The branches of my family are old, but at the same time all families are old, even if they have lost their memories.

    Yes, I know all too well how China was torn apart by the British, Russians, Italians, many other European nations, and Japan; it is a disgusting chapter in the history of human race.

    With regard to Asian / Caucasian intermarriage, it was at one time frowned upon in this country by Caucasians as well, something – like you said – degrading. My family, excluding my father was very progressive, they had even encouraged me to marry Suechen, it was other factors which in combination to the prejudicial feelings of her people that destroyed what might have been a happier life; it is a burden I will carry to my grave.

    I am truly sorry if you have been the subject of either intimidation or job discrimination, I truly am, but please don’t think that all Caucasians are this way…that would be stereotyping (:

    With regard to Annie Le, I too would seek justice had she been my own child – but I cannot speak as if I were her family, that is a decision that they must make for themselves. As I said, I would support them, but not encourage them; they have borne this tragedy with honor and it would bring them no shame to stand aside.

    It was reported that it was their wish that the ‘sealed’ affidavit remain forever sealed. You can guess what that may mean.

  • Helen Li

    What the Le family wanted was for the sealed arrest warrant and eight search warrant to be sealed for the time being, not forever. They might be advised by the prosecutor and/or other legal sources to do so. There have already a lot of unspeakable slander on the victim; and one can assume that the accused would try to smear Annie during the trial. It would be his word against the deceased. Annie would be a victim again. So we don’t need to add to any speculation for the sake of her family.I believe in Annie 100%; that she was totally without blame. I can only speak for myself.

  • Alexander Sprague

    Helen,
    In no way shape or form did I mean to impugn Annie’s character, I believe 100% in her as well. I was referring to very graphical descriptions of the manner in which she was taken from the world.

    I am not a person who likes graphical horror/slasher films for example and sometimes I wonder about those people who do enjoy that kind of entertainment. I can’t imagine as a parent, the shear horror of having that kind of information (sealed documents) ever released to the public – let alone having to watch a trial where that kind of information would come out – absolutely horrible; it would be like a nightmare that never ends.

  • Helen Li

    Alex, I am sorry if what I said in anger seemed to have included you in the vile band of racists and pond life who have been making scurrilous attacks on the poor child. I suppose I would “lash out” at anybody within touching distance right now. Thank you for clarifying what you meant, and your vote of confidence in Annie. You know how I am sure? Chinese people believe in physiognomy. Annie’s eyes were kind, gentle, and intelligent; and her face very open, friendly, and honest. I will eat my chopsticks if one single physical fact surfaces to prove me wrong. Granted, my certainty was reinforced by the legion of her family, mates, and superiors from coast to coast who sang her praises to the Heavens. The family is pleading respect for their privacy, and that is all I need to know. One can only imagine the kind of distress and grief they are suffering right now.

    Not privy to the csse, I cannot tell whether this course of action will best serve to secure justice for Annie. But in many trials I have knowledge of, the victims’ loved ones would often prefer to have all the details presented to the world for that end. We had a particularly heartbreaking case in 2004 when two eight year olds were murdered, and their remains burnt and left in a ditch by a schoolcaretaker. His live-in girlfriend worked in a nearby school where the girls attended. A case of a cold, calculating psychopath and paedophile who used family connections to gain access to his preys. A little control-freak of a man with a disturbingly similar face of arrogance, deceit, seething mal-content, and viciousness.

    I do think that violent and distasteful films and videos fuel base instincts in all of us. They insensitivied our feelings and corrupt our judgements and morals. People like them because it is easy to watch something like that than to play Mozart on the piano which takes discipline, time, and concentration. We are the product of parental guidance, school teachings, and self-motivation. To be good or evil, we do have a choice in a large measure.

  • Alexander Sprague

    Helen,
    You and I may walk in life from the perspective of different cultures, but we share many of the same thoughts and values, which is something that I have witnessed in many people from many places over the years of my life. I too believe that the eyes are windows to the soul and the pictures that I had seen of Annie spoke in volumes about her. Yes, I too saw intelligence, honesty, a spirit that could be mischievous at times, and person who would harm none and be a friend to all.

    Only with one other person have I ever shared my thoughts behind some of the things that I write, and since I generally write for myself, I have great license to write any way that I may wish without regards to critics. This friend is a beautiful person inside and out, who never married and lives alone. When she lost her father, due to pancreatic cancer several years ago, she was so depressed that I wrote many, many poems and short pieces, which we would then discuss – I was afraid that her depression was so great that she might actually die from sadness. My poems generally have more than one meaning: a surface, and one or more deeper meanings. I will include one of them at the end of this message.

    Let me, if you will, tell you of the writing of Annie’s poem. Have you ever been so focused on a thing, that light seems to dim beside you and behind you, that sound around you is muted, that all you see, feel, and think, is the task upon which you are focused? Such was the writing of that poem. Her poem was the pictures that I had seen of her, the memories of her friends and family, the tears of strangers, and her unfinished dreams – all bound together by threads from my own soul.

  • Alexander Sprague

    The first stanza, respects various religions and only referenced heaven and angels, which is common to many beliefs, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The star “though small, “was in reference to her physical stature; its brightness, the purity of her soul – so bright as to chase away the night for an eternity. I have never referred to anyone before in this manner, nor may ever do so again. The second stanza was derived from her pictures; physiognomy as you described. The third stanza was the memories of her friends and family; “her presence would fill a room”, “her laughter would infect everyone”, yet also a presence that would remain with everyone long after she had left. The fourth stanza was the tears of strangers from around the world; I read hundreds of them, and the fifth stanza was all her unfinished dreams – though the ‘I Have A Dream’ foundation was on my mind when I wrote it. There are several stanzas which remain in my heart out of respect to her family and Jonathon, they are gentle and respectful and speak of the eyes which watch the passage of the star, but I considered them inappropriate as I am an outsider.

    Now what is that … you say, my Robin
    Now what is that, … my gold
    Magic abounds in the world, not dead
    a magic, very old

    To see the magic just look in my eyes,
    my Robin, at you it smiles
    To hear the magic, to your own heart go
    and listen for a while

    I strongly agree with you closing paragraph, we are the sum of our lives and always have a choice. I leave you with this thought: 

    From the well spring which is our birth, to the eternal seas which are our death; we travel a river of lessons. This river is fed by many tributaries which sometimes carry the waters of regret, becoming lessons themselves as they mingle with the waters of our life. We learn along the way if our minds and hearts are open, understanding the meaning of wisdom, or not.

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