American Steven Blesi was killed in Seoul crowd crush on a dream trip


Since his freshman year of college, Steven Blesi has dreamed of spending a semester abroad. The coronavirus pandemic was delayed for two years. But this fall, the Marietta, Ga., native and Kennesaw State University senior got a chance.

His parents took him to the Atlanta airport in August to go to South Korea, the two were in tears and Blesi left to go. They took pictures and took one of them going up the escalator, looking back and smiling.

Blesi was about to finish a semester when, his family said, he became one of more than 150 people killed when a Halloween festival in Seoul became so crowded that many could not breathe. He was 20 years old.

“He was very passionate, he was very passionate,” said his father, Steve Blesi, in an interview with The Washington Post. “And this was his first big trip.”

At least two Americans died in Saturday’s mass shooting, according to the US embassy in Seoul. The State Department declined to name the two, but Blesi was the first to be publicly identified after his family shared details of his death on television and in the press. Later Sunday, the University of Kentucky announced that Anne Gieske, a junior nursing student studying abroad, had died.

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The younger of his two brothers who were also close friends, Blesi is remembered as being big-hearted, lucky, and quick to stick up for others. His criminal spirit was evident even as a child, his father said. “You know, when you go into the store, you have to lock him up because he keeps running.”

This is the reason for the violation of people like the killer in Seoul

He loved basketball and his pets – geckos, turtles and crabs. He became an Eagle Scout like his brother, Joey, who is almost a year older, and went to college with hopes of working in different countries.

Steven Blesi, a Marietta, Ga., native and Kennesaw State University junior, was among those killed in the Seoul Halloween massacre on Oct. 29. He was 20. (Video: Courtesy of Steve Blesi)

While in South Korea, he kept in touch with his family via WhatsApp, sending photos and videos of his travels. Another video posted from Jeju Island opens with the words, “Hey Mom, Hey Dad, Hey Joey,” with Steven smiling and waving before showing waves spreading in front of him. This weekend, she sent a text message to her father, saying that she was done with the pregnancy and was going to have fun with friends.

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“I just said, ‘Listen, be safe.’ I love you,’” said Steve Blesi. “And that was the last letter between us.”

He and his wife had just returned from shopping on Saturday when his brother reached out: Did he see what happened in Seoul? Steven was okay?

When she tried to contact her son, Steve Blesi said, “he kept calling, calling and calling and no answer.” That, he said, “scared the hell out of us.” A police officer eventually picked up, saying the cell phone was found and recovered in the Itaewon area, where the deadly attack took place.

Over the course of several agonizing hours, Mr. Blesis called the U.S. Embassy and his contacts in the study abroad program. They posted a picture of their son on Twitter. They talked to his friends and found that he was one of the people who decided to stay in the crowd while others were leaving.

They hoped he might be in the hospital. Instead, he received a phone call confirming the worst.

“I never thought this would happen,” Steve Blesi said. “I don’t understand why he couldn’t control people. I don’t know how it happened.

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She spoke to The Post by phone Sunday on her way back from picking up her oldest son, who was in college in Alabama. When he got home, he said, he and his wife “will hold him in our arms, keep him with us, do everything we can to take care of him.”

They are planning for Blesi’s body to be returned to the United States, where “he will be with us from here until the day we die.”

The man explained that his family was “broken.” People who were close to her son would call to share how great he was, she said, and “you love them for that, but it doesn’t take away the pain, and I don’t know. I just don’t know.

He continued, “Living with this for the rest of our lives is going to be very difficult.” His days would now begin and end, he said, with the same grim thought: “One of our boys is gone.”

She was also questioning the idea of ​​letting her son study abroad, even as she tried to remind herself that accidents can happen anywhere. Although he knew that his son really wanted to go.

Steve Blesi said: “I said, ‘I can’t protect you there.’ “And that these words may be true…”

Bryan Pietsch and Grace Moon contributed to this story.


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