CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pete Bi looked down at his folded hands and paused while talking about his former classmate.
"She was just a very good girl . . . just -- yeah," Bi's voice trailed off as he shook his head.
Bi, now of Charleston, attended the same school in Shenyang, China, with Lu Lingzi as a young teenager. Lingzi was identified Tuesday night as the third person killed in the Boston Marathon bombing.
"She was just watching the race," Bi, 23, said from his office at Ernst & Young after spending Wednesday morning talking to friends and family about the tragedy.
After the two bombs exploded Monday during the Boston Marathon, Bi and a group of his old classmates immediately started talking over the Internet. The friends knew several of their former classmates were in Boston and wanted to make sure they were OK.
"[Lingzi] was missing. One of our other friends was injured and went into a coma, but thankfully woke up this morning," he said. The friends knew something was wrong when, still a day later, no one had heard from Lingzi.
Bi found out about her death from Chinese news outlets.
"I just felt thankful to be alive," he said. "What are the chances of this happening to someone you know and have spent time with?"
'It's such a small world'
Bi reached out to his co-workers and friends in Charleston for support. He's a board member of the newly formed Charleston Young Professionals Kiwanis Club. The club has started raising money for Lingzi's family.
"He let some of the other board members know he had a personal connection to her. . . . we decided it was something we really wanted to be a part of," said Emma Case, the club's president. "It's such a small world when you think about it."
At 5 p.m. Saturday, the club will host its charter event in the clubhouse of Appalachian Power Park. They'll spend the day fundraising for Lingzi's family. (Those interested also can donate online http://bit.ly/15gcZ4V")
"For someone from Charleston to have a connection to someone who happened to be there," Case said, "it's very sad."
Bi moved to Ravenswood to attend high school as a foreign exchange student and later attended Wheeling Jesuit University.
He said he's been amazed at the outpouring of support he's already received from people in Charleston. His colleagues at Ernst & Young immediately gave donations, he said.