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UF students hold vigil, raise $10K for victims of Chinese earthquake

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Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2008 12:00 am

Harsh winds couldn't extinguish the flames blazing from a couple hundred candlewicks at a Friday night vigil held to honor victims of an earthquake that hit the Sichuan Province of China on May 12.

The vigil, hosted by the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, a non-profit student organization, took place at the Reitz Union Amphitheater.

About 250 students, faculty and Gainesville residents attended the ceremony and observed 30 seconds of silence to honor victims of the earthquake, both living and dead.

Since a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck the southwest province of China May 12, the death toll has risen to about 35,000, and about 245,000 people have been injured.

UF President Bernie Machen spoke to the crowd beside a large heart illuminated by individual white candles placed front and center of the amphitheater.

"We grieve with them," Machen said. "Indeed, all of us in America have suffered a great loss because the Chinese are our great friends."

Members of the association are still seeking donations after collecting about $10,000 since Wednesday afternoon, said Jiawei Zhang, the club's vice president.

All proceeds will be donated to the Chinese Red Cross, said Weitao Li, president of the organization. Li also encouraged students to give donations to the Chinese Consulate General in New York City or to Mercy Corps.

Long Yu, a chemistry graduate student, is one of many students who donated money in support of earthquake relief, accumulating roughly $1,100 in donations during the week from his own pocket.

"At this point, we're not caring about money but hope," Yu said.

"Life is so invaluable."

Jiangyan Xu, an engineering graduate student, attended the vigil because he feels close to those who share his culture and dialect. He did not lose friends or family in the earthquake.

"We're lucky people we know survived," Xu said.

Weifeng Liu, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student, had no family affected by the earthquake but donated $20 on Thursday at the Chun Ching Oriental Market.

"It's a dark and emotional moment for the whole country," Liu said. "We hope more people can help."

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