As a freshman at Seattle Pacific University from Southern California, Sarah Pantip Wong was new to the city. At her memorial service Wednesday, photos showed her exploring Pike Place Market and posing in front of the Space Needle.
But at the service, Wong’s peers — even those who grew up near Seattle — credited her with making them feel at home. Many said she was one of their first friends at school. They met her in dorm rooms and classes (usually after Wong went out of her way to introduce herself) and quickly noticed her authentic kindness.
Wong, 19, was among four people killed Saturday afternoon when a tower crane collapsed in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Her family and friends, SPU and Faith Bible Church planned her memorial service, where more than a dozen students lined up to share stories.
They said Wong took care of everyone around her, from helping them learn how to properly fold their clothes, to providing guidance when their faith was rocked.
“I only knew her for a short amount of time, but she brought out the good in people,” student Kyrus Lancaster said. “She was the most selfless, loving soul I’ve ever met. She just wanted people to be happy and just wanted to bring joy.”
Wong and Alan Justad, a longtime city of Seattle employee and the father of three grown daughters, were in separate cars that were hit when a section of the crane fell onto Mercer Street. Also killed were ironworkers Andrew Yoder, a father of two from North Bend, and Travis Corbet, a newlywed and former U.S. Marine from Oregon. The state Department of Labor & Industries is investigating five companies involved in the use or dismantling of the crane at Google’s new campus.
Seattle Pacific spokeswoman Tracy Norlen estimated more than 600 people attended the service at First Free Methodist Church near the university, including Wong’s parents and brother.
One of Wong’s cousins, Lauren Zhou Weinberger, was also in attendance and spoke on behalf of some of her extended family.
“Hearing about her experiences during her first year in college, the people she met and the activities she was involved in, it was clear she was where she was meant to be,” she said. “Learning about the impact that she’s had on so many people here and the life that she’s shared with you all is really special.”
The university’s Pacific Islanders Club of Cultural Arts, which Wong was a part of, performed at the service. Her favorite Bible verses were read. One of Wong’s roommates, Rachel Regner, sang “Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace),” which she said was their favorite song to sing in their dorm room.
The somber mood in the church lifted momentarily when Patricio Osegueda, who said he knew Wong for seven years and dated her for the last seven months, recalled that her first gift to him was a pack of reusable metal straws. The room filled with knowing laughter as he described how she would always take hers, which were rose gold, to restaurants.
Osegueda, like other speakers at the service, said he became religious because of Wong.
He spoke about how hard it was to talk to Wong on the phone when she was walking across campus, because she would have to say hello to everyone she passed.
“Sarah makes every single person she talks to feel like they matter,” he said.
The memorial service was recorded and can be viewed on SPU’s website.
Memorial plans have not yet been announced by the other victims of Saturday’s crane collapse.
In a statement released Wednesday, Alan Justad’s family said, “As we prepare to lay him to rest, we are deeply thankful and strengthened by the outpouring of love and support from the community. He was loved by many for his dry wit, his intellect and, above all else, his kindness.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect last name for Sarah Wong’s cousin.