November 18, 2012

Love and grief not dimmed by months or miles


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Chu “Allen” Xiong’s parents returned to the North Country from China a year after their only child’s death to visit his grave and reflect on his life.

Chu and his friend Dat T. Ong, were tragically killed when a car struck them on Peasleeville Road in Peru just after 5 p.m. while the two were walking to the store from their host family’s home.

In the car were Brandon Sorrell, 17, and his girlfriend, Samatha Donah, 17; they died as well.

The quadruple fatal was among the worst accidents remembered in the North Country, and there was an outpouring of grief and support as well from around Clinton County for the families of the four teens. 

Dat, from Vietnam, and Chu, from China, were international students at Seton Catholic Central School in Plattsburgh. Brandon was a senior at Peru Central School, and Samantha attended Beekmantown Central.


Xiong Ze and Huang Ke said they will make the long journey from China to each year to visit their son.

For the past year, not a moment has passed when he and his wife haven’t thought of Chu, Mr. Xiong said, with the help of friend and interpreter Lanxiang Hipko of Plattsburgh.

“We miss him every day.”

Everyone who knew Chu loved him, his parents said, sitting in the lobby of Hampton Inn in Plattsburgh.

He often called and emailed them in his two months in Plattsburgh, telling his parents how much he loved attending Seton and how friendly everyone was.

Chu worked hard in school, earned excellent grades and hoped to attend Stanford University in California one day, perhaps to study science or history, Mr. Xiong said.

He wrote the words “great ambition” on a piece of paper to describe his son.

As a person separate from his studies, Chu was an intellectual who would often ponder the human psyche and the meaning of life, Mr. Xiong said. In his spare time, he enjoying playing the trombone, practicing martial arts, drawing comics and spending time outdoors.


By late Saturday morning, Mr. Xiong and Huang had already driven twice with Lanxiang to visit Chu’s grave in St. Peter’s Cemetery near Seton Catholic.

Doing so provided them with a sense of comfort and peacefulness.

They chose to have Chu buried far from home because they felt he would want to be laid to rest near the school he loved so much, surrounded by the teachers, religious leaders and friends to whom he was close.

Chu’s black granite headstone faces the school.

“He had a study he wanted to finish,” Mr. Xiong said.

The gravestone’s position, he said, is symbolic of Chu’s love of learning and of Seton, where he was a junior.

The white doves on the headstone symbolically connect him to his parents and extended family in China, spanning the distance, Lanxiang explained for Mr. Xiong and Huang.

Their connection to their son will never be broken, she said.


Mr. Xiong and Huang are moved by the support they have received from Seton and the surrounding community.

And in their time here, they have noticed that the local people show a love and concern for those around them, Mr. Xiong said through Lanxiang.

“I think Plattsburgh people are very kind and upright,” he said. 

And the staff and students at Seton show concern and love for everyone who studies there, he added.

He and his wife are forever grateful for all that has been done for them in their time of need, Mr. Xiong said.

“God bless the people of Plattsburgh.”