Partahi Lumbantoruan

Partahi Lumbantoruan

Hometown: Indonesia

Age: 34

Major: Civil Engineering

Profile: Through the numbness of grief, Rhondy Rahardja managed to chuckle, and so did his friend Pupung Purnawarman. The two found themselves standing in the most immaculate apartment either had ever seen yesterday -- three small rooms near Virginia Tech that a fellow student and Indonesian national, Partahi Lumbantoruan, had called home.

He is gone now. He was 34 and had been in the United States for about three years, working toward a doctorate in Tech's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

"The way he kept his books, his clothes -- everything so neat, so organized," said Purnawarman, who had never visited his friend's apartment before. Now he and Rahardja were packing Lumbantoruan's belongings in boxes and suitcases so the Indonesian Embassy can ship them to his parents in North Sumatra's capital city of Medan.

Rahardja laughed wistfully. "Everything is on place," he said. "Just like the military. He has all his socks lined up next to each other, maybe for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday."

That was Lumbantoruan, a man who valued order and discipline, according to his friends. They said he grew up in a military family -- his father and stepmother were both officers in Indonesia's army -- and he came to Blacksburg with a seriousness of purpose.

In North Sumatra, his father, Tohom Lumbantoruan, told the Associated Press that the family sold property and cars to pay for their unmarried son's tuition at Tech, where he received a master's degree in civil engineering before beginning a doctoral program.

"We tried everything to completely finance his studies in the United States," the father said. "We only wanted him to succeed in his studies, but . . . he met a tragic fate."

In Blacksburg, when he wasn't around -- and even when he was -- his friends liked to kid him. "Yes, sir!" they would say in responding to his opinions, which he almost always voiced with authority. "Yes, sir! Whatever you say, sir!" And they would laugh, and so would he, despite himself, his friends recalled.

And the clothes he wore -- practically a uniform. Rahardja chuckled again at the memory. "Always the same thing, the same kind of thing," he said. "He always wore a polo shirt, very neat, no wrinkles. Khaki pants. Always khakis. And the polo shirt was always tucked in. Always. And he wore his VT hat."

Friends said he aspired to be a university professor in the United States.

They last saw him Sunday, at the university's International Street Fair. The Indonesian Students Association, of which Rahardja is president, had a booth, serving satay, barbequed chicken and beef on skewers. "He was the grill-master," Rahardja said of Lumbantoruan. Afterward, Rahardja drove him home.

They chatted about an association get-together, which had been planned for this Saturday. "We were saying we were going to a restaurant and have some fun," Rahardja recalled. "He was like, 'Oh, yeah, it's going to be fun.'"

Yesterday, Rahardja was at his friend's apartment, seeing the inside for the first time.

And allowing himself to smile.

"Khakis," he said. "He had lots and lots and lots of khakis."

-- Paul Duggan, The Washington Post


© 2007 The Washington Post Company