Yingying Zhang, where are you?

On June 9, 2017, around 2:00 PM US Central Time, Yingying Zhang (章莹颖 in Chinese) was missing in Urbana, Illinois.

On this coming Saturday, June 9, it will mark the whole year of her tragic missing case.  A super long, torturing and agonizing year for her family and the loved ones.

Yingying Zhang, where are you?

Personally, I don’t know Yingying Zhang and her family.  I’m one of the millions who cared about this case so deeply, and shared the emotions.

Why do I care?  Because I’m a Chinese American, I used to be a graduate student coming from China, and I’m a mom.

Today, I’d like to share my thoughts, as a way to pray for her, her family, and the loved ones.

Who is Yingying Zhang?

Yingying Zhang is a visiting scholar at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).  She came to US in late April 2017 from China, to pursue her dreams.

The last time she was seen: she got into a car, a black Saturn Astra, in Urbana, IL, on June 9, 2017.

Here is the case details: on Wiki, and UIUC.

My thoughts:

I vividly remember that day, June 9, 2017.  It was Friday.  In central Ohio, it was a typical early summer day:  sunshine, blue sky, warm but not hot, with pleasant breeze.

In the late morning, I visited a small park.  Brought the lawn chair with me, sat under the tree shades, listened to the music, and enjoyed the time.  In the early afternoon, I gave a ride to a friend.

The day before, June 8, was the big day when James Comey testified in the Congress.

The first time I heard about Yingying Zhang missing was a couple of days later, from a Chinese news web site.

What happened?  Why did it happen?  How to help find her?  Those questions have been lingering there for a year so far.

She had lived in US for only about 7 weeks.  I’m sure it was not easy for her.  She came alone, to this totally new country.  The challenges are there.

Transportation challenge:

I came to US alone over 20 years ago, and lived in two college towns.  The size is similar to Urbana, IL.

Public transportation was not good in those small towns.  If you don’t have a car, it’s really hard to get around.

I was lucky.  Some friends and roommates who had cars were so kind to give me rides for grocery shopping, laundry, etc.

As a new international student, it takes a while to learn, and get the driver’s license.  It takes longer to buy a car, if money is an issue.  It took me a year.

The first year was tough.  Once having a car, my life became much easier.

Yingying Zhang was missing since she got into that stranger’s car.  She didn’t have a car yet.

But, it’s not too uncommon to take a ride in a stranger’s car in US, right?  Taxi rides are excluded here.  I did it once at least.  I didn’t like it, but sometimes, I have to do what I have to do.  That’s part of life.

We don’t suspect everyone could be a kidnapper, or murderer.  Or should we?  College town usually seems safer.  And nobody knows what a bad person looks like.  I just feel so horrible it happened to Yingying Zhang, in the broad daylight.

Language and cultural challenges:

Living in a new country is exciting, but very hard.  No matter how prepared you are before hand, you are still not prepared.

Language is at the top.  I studied and used English in China for many years.  But on the day I arrived at US, I found myself stumbling.  It took a long time to get used to it.

I’m still stumbling today.  Even after living in US for decades, as you can see, my English is still not that fluent as the native speaker.

Culture is another barrier.  After all, American culture is very different from the Chinese.  It took me a while to figure out the differences, and get the senses on how to deal with people, and how to judge the safety of my surroundings.

Yingying Zhang is a very smart and talented lady.  She got her bachelor and master degrees in China, and came to US in order to advance academically, and have a better life.

Everything was new to her.  People are supposed to love her, help her, at least, not to harm her.  We are all humans.  Loving and helping each other including strangers is our human nature, correct?

Like every young person, she deserves the chance to learn, let her strike on her own, and succeed.  Nobody has the right to take that chance away from her.  No one.

My thoughts as a mom:

As a parent, we all want our kids doing well, healthy, safe and sound, no matter who we are, and where we live.

I’m a mom with one kid.  I feel the excruciating pains and anxieties Yingying Zhang’s mom and dad have to go through during the past year.

Not knowing what happened to their lovely daughter.  Not knowing where she is right now.  The uncertainty would drive everyone nuts.  It’s totally a nightmare no parents should ever go through.

It’s heartbreaking to see her mom and dad on the internet, pleading for her safe return.  They didn’t ask much.  The parents just wanted to know where their daughter is, and reunite with her.

The days became weeks, and months,  Now a year passed sadly.  And she is still missing.

I wish I could help to find her, but don’t know how.  Before the suspect was in custody, FBI was looking for that car.  I went to Detroit for some family matter in late June last year, and came back in Greyhound.  While sitting in the bus, I was staring at the cars on the freeway, hoped to find out that black Saturn Astra.


This post is not about me.  It’s more about Yingying Zhang, the young lady whose life is so promising.

I hope Yingying Zhang’s parents find the strength somehow to get through this ordeal.  I wish them the best.

I really hope FBI is wrong, and Yingying Zhang is still alive, safe and sound, somewhere in US.

Sometimes, we heard the kidnapped victims survived after months or even years.  I hope the miracle happens to Yingying Zhang.  God bless her, her family and the loved ones.

To our readers: appreciate life and personal safety.  It’s priceless.

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12 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    I can’t imagine what her parents must be going thru:( Always wondering what has happened, if she is alive, is she suffering??? So many questions with no answers.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Yeah, it just ripped the parents’ heart, and made their life totally upside down. One year is a super long time, with no answers.

  2. Joe says:

    It doesn’t look good. There are a few bad seeds everywhere. You have put safety first. I’d be devastated if anything happens to our son. All we can do is to prepare our kids to face this harsh world. It’s hard when you’re in a new culture and don’t know what to do.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      It is a nightmare for parents. They must feel so helpless, as the time dragged on. Sometimes, this world is not that safe. Bad things do happen. More caution and vigilance is necessary to protect ourselves, as we can never know or tell.

  3. That is a really sad story Helen. I was not aware of it. I can relate on a couple of levels. My wife has her degree from U of I Urbana-Champaign and spent many hours in and around that campus. And when I was 11, my 14 year old cousin disappeared on a high school trip never to be found. I was a little to young to fully comprehend, but after that my Mother would barely let me out of her sight.

    I think I have said it before on your blog. If we wake up healthy and make it though the day safely everything else is a mere trivial distraction. It may sound dramatic, but those things should never be taken lightly.


    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Tom, that’s heartbreaking your cousin disappeared, and is never found. I’m sorry to hear that. Such a huge tragedy the parents had to go through.

      Yes, I totally agree with you: stay healthy and safe. That’s really the key.

  4. Steve says:

    Hi Helen,
    Every parents worst nightmare. Such a tragic story. Lets hope that miracle happen and she is found safe and healthy.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Steve, yeah, it’s horrible to the parents. Sometimes miracle does happen, and I hope that’s the case for her.

  5. GYM says:

    This is terrible. My life would just shatter if something happened to my son. I am so sad about these terrible trajedies, I don’t understand why people would do things.

    Recently a 13 or 14 year old girl named Marisa Shen disappeared in a park last summer near Vancouver and they found her body in the park. They believe it was a random attack. Just terrible 🙁

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Yes, I heard about the case of Marrisa Shen. Horrible. Those tragedies just don’t make any sense. This world is not that safe as it looks like.

  6. I read about this incident when it happened and it was shocking since she had just arrived in the U.S. I hope and pray that her family get the closure they need soon…

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Enoch, yes, it was shocking and sad. One year has been a long long time for her family. Thanks a lot for sharing your thought.

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