Guest Voices: The Lunar New Year’s mass shooting was a tragedy we must remember

The Asian Student Alliance will hold a vigil for them on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Mellon Board Room on the Shadyside Campus.


The Asian Student Association logo. Photo Credit: ASA

By Jolie Phan on behalf of the Asian Student Alliance

This year on Jan. 21, Lunar New Year’s Eve, a mass shooting occurred at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Los Angeles that killed 11 people. My Nhan, Valentino Alvero, Lilan Li, Xiujuan Yu, Diana Tom, Muoi Ung, Hongying Jian, Chia Yau, Ming Ma, Yu Kao and Wen Yu were their names. They came to the studio to socialize with their friends and learn how to dance.

Lunar New Year is by far my favorite Vietnamese holiday. It holds a special place in my heart because I have many fond memories with my family during this season. That’s the whole point of this special holiday – family. Appreciating people in our lives and wishing love and success is the epicenter of the new year. This year, I traveled home to spend time with my family, and I was joyfully celebrating the traditions I hold so dearly. That was until I heard the news.  

When we’re constantly bombarded by tragedy, it’s easy to feel detached and numb. It’s overwhelming and exhausting to hear about one shooting after another and feel hopeless and powerless, knowing you can’t do anything about it. The only way I could cope was to detach myself from reality, and for a while, I didn’t want to see or read anything related to the topic. 

It wasn’t because I didn’t care, but because I was too scared to care. 

Every time something like this happens, I can’t help but imagine how it could have been me, my mom, my grandma or someone else I love. I then realized these people were someone’s daughter, mother or grandma, and I owe it to them to learn who they are to let their spirits live on. 

As I researched, I found that My Nhan was a popular ballroom dancer who was interested in fashion. Diana Tom was extremely kindhearted and always went out of her way to help others. Valentino Alvero was the life of the party, and Ming Ma was selfless and caring. They’re not just another statistic; they are real people who led interesting lives, had personalities, things that they liked and disliked and people who loved and cared for them. 

 My grandma always told me around this time of year, there are two things you should always do: never miss the last train and come home to your family for Lunar New Year. Eleven people didn’t get the chance to do that this Lunar New Year. My mom waited for me at the door and embraced me when I drove home. These families are left with cold empty arms, their holiday forever tainted by the stain of grief. It is not fair the amount of pain and suffering they must endure because of another person’s senseless brutality.  

 The fact that our country allows accessibility to the machinery that allows such a heinous act to occur repeatedly is frustrating and despicable. That is why we must make a change. Pressure your local lawmakers to more stringent gun control laws. Vote for those that will make that possible. We cannot allow for any more people to be taken away from their families, for any more unwanted heartbreak.  

As I hold my fondness for Lunar New Year in my heart, I will also keep close the heartbreak for the 11 victims of the shooting. They deserved to come home. 

The Asian Student Alliance will hold a vigil for them on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Mellon Board Room on the Shadyside Campus. Afterward, we will have a group discussion about our feelings regarding the tragedy with a trauma-informed counselor. We will also hold a fundraising event to sell Lunar New Year bracelets to raise money for the victims’ families. Here are some additional resources if you are struggling with coping with the shooting:

  • Counseling Center: Free to all students, the Counseling Center can provide short consultations, longer therapy sessions, and referrals for long term treatment. They can offer telehealth as well as in person visits. If you have previously been to the counseling center and did not mesh with your provider, you can request a new provider.
  • Talk Campus: A free service Chatham provides to all students. This is a mental health support network app where you can anonymously connect to others experiencing similar challenges. Download from the app store and login with your Chatham credentials.
  • Thriving Campus: Chatham partners with this service to make it easier for you to connect with off-campus mental health care, if you prefer. Navigate to to browse and filter area providers, get answers to commonly asked questions, and connect with mental health care