Steve and Maria Blesi had just gotten back from a trip to the grocery store Saturday when their older son, Joey, got in touch to ask if they'd heard what had happened in Seoul, and if they knew whether his younger brother, Steven Blesi, was alright. The 20-year-old, a student at Georgia's Kennesaw State University, had left for South Korea in August for a semester abroad. When his parents learned of the deadly crowd crush Saturday night, they tried to get a hold of their younger son, getting increasingly frantic as their calls and texts went unanswered, the New York Times reports. Eventually, someone did answer the phone: a police officer, who told the terrified parents the phone had been found in the area of the crowd surge, the Washington Post reports.
They hoped their son might be found injured but alive in a hospital, but their worst fears were confirmed hours later when someone from the US Embassy in South Korea called to tell them he was among the at least 153 people killed in the tragedy. "He was an adventurous spirit and a loving spirit. That’s the only way I know how to describe him. And the loss is just unbearable," Blesi says. "One of our boys isn’t with us anymore." Steven Blesi was one of two Americans known to be among the victims killed. The other is Anne Gieske, a University of Kentucky third-year nursing student who was also studying in Seoul for the semester, NBC News reports.
"We are completely devastated and heartbroken over the loss of Anne Marie. She was a bright light loved by all. We ask for your prayers but also the respect of our privacy," her father said in a statement. The university's president adds, "There aren’t adequate or appropriate words to describe the pain of a beautiful life cut short." President Biden also addressed the tragedy in a tweet Sunday. "Jill and I are devastated to learn that at least two Americans are among so many who lost their lives in Seoul," he wrote. "Our hearts go out to their loved ones in this time of grief, and we continue to pray for the recovery of all who were injured." (Read more Seoul stories.)