The Father of One U.S. Victim Found Warmth Online as Worry Became Grief

As he made the two-hour drive, Mr. Blesi said he could not stop worrying about Joey. Steven was the more outgoing sibling, he said. Joey was shyer, more introverted.

“Steven and him were best friends,” Mr. Blesi said, “I’m just worried to death about him, about how he becomes a whole heart instead of half a heart.”

Steven Blesi had been waiting for years for an opportunity to study abroad, his father said. He had a passion for international business, specifically in East Asia, but the coronavirus pandemic had kept him from traveling there until this fall.

“My wife is Latin, but he did not want to go to Latin America,” Mr. Blesi said, chuckling. “He was actually learning Korean in addition to Spanish. He wanted to speak more languages than my wife.” On Saturday, initial reports suggested that around 20 foreign nationals had been killed but that none of them were from the United States.

“That gave us hope,” Mr. Blesi said.

He and his wife remained positive even after he tried calling his son repeatedly and someone else — a police officer — finally answered. Steven Blesi’s phone was among the scores of phones littered across the scene of the deadly crowd surge.

“Well, maybe his phone got knocked out of his hand,” Mr. Blesi recalled thinking. “Maybe he lost his phone.”

Mr. Blesi was eventually able to piece together what happened to his son after getting in touch with some of his friends in Seoul. He had just finished taking midterm exams, and he and a group of friends were going out Saturday for a night of fun. They eventually found themselves at the Halloween celebration. A few of Steven Blesi’s friends left the gathering to escape the crowds, but he stayed behind.

“I texted him maybe a half-hour before all this happened, and I said: ‘I know you’re out and about. Be safe,’” Mr. Blesi said. “I never got a reply to that.”

Beyond the grief, Mr. Blesi said that he felt rage toward the authorities who he believes allowed this to happen.

They should not allow crowds to get that big, he said. “I see politicians out there grieving on Twitter,” he said. “It’s just, to me, publicity on their end. Whereas they should be working to try to ensure rules are in place to not allow this type of crowding to ever happen again.”

Mr. Blesi and others who knew his son agreed that his defining feature was the compassion he had for others, especially people who were struggling. He was never afraid to stand up for someone in need, Mr. Blesi said. He loved traveling and basketball, and he and his older brother were both Eagle Scouts.

“He was an adventurous spirit and a loving spirit,” Mr. Blesi said. “That’s the only way I know how to describe him. And the loss is just unbearable.”

After he posted the confirmation of his son’s death on Twitter, the responses kept coming.

“May he rest in fun-filled, painless places,” one person said.

“Heartbroken,” said another.

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