CNN)On the nights the father can sleep, he awakes crying.
The grief becomes even more overbearing during the day, when his only daughter stares back from photographs in the family home. Her presence lingers in every room. Sometimes, the father must close his eyes.
His daughter was an extraordinary student. Loved the arts. Played piano. Dreamed of becoming a sculptor. She devoured her mother’s homemade dumplings and hot pots.
Mother and father scrimped and saved. Part of China’s burgeoning middle class, they tucked away their life savings, more than $100,000, for her education. They were thrilled to send her to the United States for college; she hoped to repay them one day.
Tong Shao majored in chemical engineering at Iowa State University in Ames, a field that made her father happy because not many women are brave enough to enter the male-dominated profession.
Like so many of today’s Chinese youth, Tong was the product of Beijing’s one-child policy. She had grown up the only child in a coastal city in northeastern China. Her mother and father were sold on the idea of sending their daughter to a bucolic setting in rural America. In central Iowa, they believed she would be safe.