A death of our own
Last week, violence struck one of our UNC faculty members in a beautiful neighborhood adjoining our School and the campus. We’re part of that neighborhood – some of our faculty live there; one of them is president of the community association; and many people walk through the quiet residential area, to enjoy its peaceful, tree-lined streets, bountiful flowers and lovely homes.
Last Wednesday, as Professor Feng Liu, from the School of Pharmacy, took a regular midday walk after lunch, he was assaulted, robbed and left fighting for his life. He died the next day. Two suspects were apprehended.
People in the Cameron-McCauley Historic District and Westwood neighborhoods responded swiftly and appropriately, stopping to help the grievously injured Dr. Liu, calling 911, sharing information, supporting one another and taking up a collection for the professor’s family. This is not a neighborhood where people hide behind doors. They are engaged and caring and solidly against crime, and they showed compassion for the victim of a heinous crime and his family.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t be horrified that a senseless act of violence caused the death of a productive, popular and caring husband, scholar, teacher, mentor, father, son, grandfather-to-be and colleague.
I understand how shocked and frightened people could feel after such a senseless crime. Many years ago, on the first day after moving into a new neighborhood in Philadelphia, I was walking home, my mind fully occupied with plans and my arms full of packages, I was assaulted, thrown down, and had my handbag ripped from my arm. Fortunately, the mailman, to whom I’d just introduced myself, heard me scream. He jumped in his truck and followed my attackers. They threw my wallet and other possessions out the windows of their car and were caught. I spent many months getting firsthand knowledge about the Philadelphia legal system, an education that made me wary of repeat offenders.
My experience is not unique. I’ve talked to many people who’ve been mugged (a benign name for something much more brutal). Like me, many of them said that soon after the event, they found themselves jumping if someone came up too quickly on the street. Gradually, that nervousness subsides.
I hope that our neighbors, whose community was violated, eventually will be able to walk their streets with caution but without fear. For Dr. Liu’s family, there is no return to life before this trauma. Their loss is infinite and irreplaceable. A professor went out for a walk, and he never returned. That’s wrong. We all lost someone of value and something of ourselves that day.
August 2, 2014 (Sat)
UNC Memorial Hall
Donations can be made online or by mail to:
The Feng Liu Graduate Student Award Fund
UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy Foundation
194 Finley Golf Course Road, Suite 106
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Flowers, cards and condolences can be sent to the Liu family at:
The Liu family
c/o UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy
301 Pharmacy Lane, Suite 100
Chapel Hill NC 27599-7355