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'Brilliant Student' Mourned

Warmth and Joy of Slain Johns Hopkins Senior Recalled

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page C06

After Linda Trinh made her first trip to her parents' native Vietnam last summer, she returned to the United States deeply moved by the children she met at an AIDS hospice. The Johns Hopkins University senior penned them a poem. Don't feel sad about my departure, she told them.

"I thank you for all of your smiles," she wrote.

Quang Trinh holds a photo of his slain sister, Linda, after a Mass for her at Our Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church in Silver Spring. (Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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Yesterday, at the Silver Spring church where Trinh taught Sunday school, a priest recalled her words and said they served as her own farewell to the more than 700 family members, friends and schoolmates who gathered to mourn her a week after her death.

Trinh, 21, was found asphyxiated last Sunday in an apartment building across the street from the university campus in Baltimore. The slaying was the second in the Johns Hopkins community in nine months. Police have made no arrests in the case.

The standing-room-only Mass for Trinh was held at Our Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church, a distinctive yellow concrete structure with a curved, red pagoda-style roof built in a Vietnamese design. Floral wreaths decorated the outside walkway. Two easels displayed large color photographs of her smiling face, surrounded by family and friends. Another color photo sat atop her white coffin.

Trinh's family had fled communist Vietnam, spending a year in refugee camps before arriving in the United States in 1983. Trinh's parents live in Silver Spring. Her father, Quy Trinh, is a machine mechanic, and her mother, Hoan Ngo, is a machine parts worker, a family member said. Her older brother, Quang, is a University of Maryland graduate.

Trinh grew up surrounded by many relatives, said cousin Tung Huynh, 38. He remembered snapping photos of her as a young girl dressed up in the traditional Vietnamese ao dai, a long, flowing tunic. "Now I am preparing the picture books for her funeral," he said.

The service was conducted in English and Vietnamese, with several Vietnamese Catholic hymns sung by a choir. As the plaintive melodies filled the church, many of the older Vietnamese bowed their heads and wept.

More than 100 students, faculty and administrators from Johns Hopkins also attended the Mass, including President William R. Brody.

The Rev. Tam Tranh, who gave the homily in English, described Trinh as a "brilliant student with such a good heart." Her strong desire was to use her talents to help the unfortunate, especially those in Vietnam, he said.

Trinh was a 2001 graduate of Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, where she earned straight A's in the rigorous International Baccalaureate program and lettered in gymnastics and volleyball.

At Johns Hopkins, Trinh studied biomedical engineering. One of her goals, she wrote in her application for her senior engineering project, was to bring better and more affordable health care to cancer and AIDS patients in developing countries.

She was also a former president of her sorority and former member of the university's volleyball team. A devoted daughter who called her parents almost daily, Trinh kept track of her many ambitions on a colorful diagram, a goal map. One of them was to learn to cook Vietnamese food for herself.

In his eulogy, Brody said Trinh had worked in a research lab, devising ways to use digital mammography to bring breast cancer screening to poor women.

"We have all lost a golden glimpse of the future," he said.

Turning toward Trinh's grieving family, Brody spoke of a doctor at Johns Hopkins whose 6-year-old son died of leukemia after many months of struggle. He offered the father's words as a benediction, his voice cracking with emotion:

"May we all find peace in the shared hope that our children who brought us such joy with their short lives are now a host of angels, loving us still, feeling our love for them . . . and knowing that they are safely locked forever in our hearts."

After the 90-minute service, Trinh's brother, his face grim, led the way. Family members supported her father, who sobbed deeply. Her mother held a small golden crucifix.

After the cars drove away, a former volleyball teammate hugged her friends, clutching a miniature volleyball in her arm.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company