Tears, Praise at Le Vigil

More than 100 people filled the Samuel Merritt University lawn to honor the life of the former nursing student.

Appeared in: South San Francisco Patch

By: Analisa Harangozo and Aj Flores

Many who helped search for slain nursing student Michelle Le got to know more about her Tuesday night than was revealed in news reports and missing-person posters.

Thruogh the testimonies of others, they met an ambitious, considerate and organized young woman.

Exactly four months after her disappearance, more than 100 people gathered at Oakland's Samuel Merritt University, where Le had been enrolled in an intensive nursing program, to memorialize the life of the 26-year-old.

Continuous sobs echoed through the crowd as people spoke about Le, flanked by posters, collages and floral arrangements on the lawn.

As the sun set, attendants lit candles, listened to a musical performances and watched a projector illuminate images of Le's life - from graduations to family vacations.

Le's brother Michael, who also lost his mother, said he will now have to learn to live without his older sister.

"Someday, I will be reunited with my mom and Michelle but [until then] I need to live a life that would make them both proud of me," he said.

Le's cousin Krystine Dinh shared several fond memories of her and Le while growing up, from Le buying her her first razor and make-up foundation to teaching her how to drive and getting their first job together at Rubio's. Dinh said it is the simple moments between her and Le that she will remember most.

"Words will never explain how much I miss her and the pain will sit like a rock in my stomach," she said. "Michelle will never be a mom, she will never be a nurse, she will never see her future. However, her memory and her name will see the future and will continue to be honored."

Dinh, and Le's brother, Michael Le, thanked police and investigators, university faculty and staff, and the numerous volunteers who helped with the eight search parties that scoured southern Alameda County  for the nursing student.

Samuel Merritt University President Sharon Diaz announced that a scholarship would be set up at the university in honor of Le. She called Le "the quintesential professional, and then some."

Laurie Rosa, an assistant professor at Samuel Merritt, said she always hassled Le on her signature, jokingly saying it looked like chicken scratches.

But during the night of her disappearance, Rosa recalled Michelle telling her: "I figure I’m saving a minute of my life every time I’m writing my name like that."

"She was and she did that day," Rosa said.

Several of Le's sorority sisters from Beta Phi at San Francisco State University highlighted her unique attributes.

Calling Le by her nickname, "P's and Q's", they said she was polite and organized as their former secretary and treasurer.

The crowd fell silent at exactly 7 p.m. - the time Le went missing four months ago.

Many attendants, like Shenita Miles from Menlo Park, never met Le but were compelled to help the family find her. Miles assisted with the last two search parties before finding Le and honored her by wearing a shirt with her picture on it during the vigil.

"As you can see, she had a lot of people in her life that cared about her," Miles said."It was hard not to get involved with something like this."

The Le family has kept Le's story in the media spotlight, holding vigils, rallies and searches in her name. After Tuesday night's vigil, the family plans to hold private memorials in order to mourn her death.

Le's remains were found on Sept. 17 in a wooded area off Verona Road in Sunol.

A former friend, Giselle Diwag Esteban of Union City, was arrested and charged with Le's murder. She is scheduled to appear in court for a plea hearing on Wednesday.

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