OAKLAND — Almost every night for the past year, Wangchen Nyima has been awakened in the middle of the night by a terrible dream.
He sees his dead sister, Sonam Choedon, whom he often helped financially, calling out to him in her native Tibetan. "Cho-cho," she cries out, using the Tibetan word for older brother, "Cho-cho, can I have some pocket money?"
Nyima is rarely able to go back to sleep after these encounters.
"I keep thinking, 'Why?' " he said. "I still can't believe that she's gone."
Nyima will be one of dozens of family members commemorating loved ones killed in Oakland's worst school shooting, which took place at Oikos University one year ago Tuesday and claimed the lives of seven people.
In April, Oikos will host two memorial concerts -- one in Oakland on Saturday and a second in Sacramento on April 13 -- to remember the victims. The San Francisco Master Chorale, in which Oikos University's president, the Rev. Jongin Kim, sings, will perform Mozart's Requiem to honor the lives of the dead: Judith O. Seymour, 53, of San Jose; Lydia H. Sim, 21, of Hayward; Sonam Choedon, 33, of El Cerrito; Grace Kim, 23, of Union City; Doris Chibuko, 40, of San Leandro; Katleen Ping, 24, of Oakland; and Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, 38, of San Francisco.
As Bay Area residents commemorate the loss, families and friends of the victims are healing in different ways. Nyima, who works at an Oakland nursery and was trained as a monk, has spent hours praying for his sister. He will do so again on Tuesday with a small group of friends and family, including another sister who flew in from Canada for the memorial. He said they will remember Choedon's wonderful qualities -- her deep Buddhist faith, her intense love of children and her commitment to helping orphans in India.
And while Nyima said that he is trying hard to forget what happened to his sister, he finds it difficult. "I was a monk for a long time and I know that peace is important," he said. "But when you lose somebody you're so close to, it's difficult, really, you know?"
Osagie Enabulele, a project manager and close friend of Doris Chibuko, said the timing of the massacre, the week before Easter, has been particularly hard for Chibuko's family. He said the Nigerian community has provided support for Chibuko's husband, whose father also recently died. "We know that she's somewhere now resting," he said. "But she was taken away too soon."
The shooting suspect, One L. Goh, a 43-year-old Korean immigrant and former classmate to six of the victims, was charged with seven counts of murder last year. In January, two court-appointed psychiatrists determined that Goh suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and recommended he be remanded to a state mental health care facility until he is mentally fit to stand trial.
June Lee, executive director of the Korean Community Center of the East Bay, said the shooting and resulting trauma across the Korean-American community emphasized the need for more services.
"The community had no awareness of how to deal with it," she said. "They find it really horrifying. In the Korean community if you have cancer, people will talk about it. But if you have mental illness, nobody wants to talk about it."
Lee said the city and various nonprofits have expressed interest in grass-roots initiatives that would help tackle these issues, but so far nothing has been done.
Lia Little, a co-founder of Oikos's nursing program, was at her husband's hospital bedside, where he was undergoing some routine tests when news of the shooting broke. She immediately called the front desk. "The phone just rang and rang and rang," said Little, who knew each of the victims, as well as the suspect.
The phone went unanswered because Katleen Ping, a 24-year-old immigrant from the Philippines and prospective nursing student who ran the front desk, had already been shot dead. Her brother, Kaine Ping, said the loss of his sister has left the devout Baptist family, particularly Ping's 6-year-old son, Kayzzer Bryant, bereft.
Ping recounted how he sometimes laughed along with Kayzzer as the boy pulled his hair down over his forehead while saying, "I'm a man without a forehead, I'm a man without a forehead." Recently, however, the boy pulled his hair down and said, "I'm a man without ... a mommy." The uncle nearly burst into tears. "I can't believe he interjected it out of nowhere," he said, "It really is hard stuff."
On Tuesday, Ping, his parents and his nephew will visit Katleen's grave in Hayward's Chapel of the Chimes cemetery.
Nearly everybody said the massacre had altered their view of safety in Oakland and their views on guns.
"A year ago I wasn't scared to go out, but now it's completely changed," Nyima said. "It's very sad. It shouldn't be happening to anybody."
Enabulele said he respects American customs and traditions but remains convinced that there should be stricter laws on the books. "If you are affected directly then you understand the impact," he said. "There are a lot of ripple effects, and people should be mindful of their acts and what they do."
Little, the nursing teacher, said she has become increasingly afraid of leaving doors ajar or even unlocked at school, fearful that someone might come in and start shooting. Oikos changed its policy after the shooting and now requires all doors to be locked, but Little said the regulation is often ignored. Oikos, meantime, continues to recruit students and is accepting applications starting April 22.
Sometimes Nyima gets angry. He went to court once, but when he heard that Goh had been sent to a mental institution instead of prison, he stopped paying attention.
In February he finally relented and sent Choedon's ashes back to India. But he thinks about his sister all the time.
"It's so difficult," he said. "I'm lost."
Kaine Ping, for his part, believes more strongly than ever that the loss of his sister is, in some mysterious way, part of God's plan. And he has compassion for Goh.
"He's a person, too," he said. "I'm sure he and his family are hurting, too. The judgment for him is when he stands before God."
At Oikos, the room where the massacre occurred stands empty. Nursing classes are no longer held there and the room is reserved for theology lessons. The walls have been cleaned, plastered and painted.
A sign is taped to the door: "Be a Nurse, Join the Ones Who Dare to Care."