OSU student from Sri Lanka finds solace after deadly bombings

"If Corvallis is America, I say come here. You're safe," Shyam Mahakalanda said.

Posted: Apr 23, 2019 6:38 PM
Updated: Apr 23, 2019 6:57 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- The reverberations of the bloody bombings in Sri Lanka are being felt all over, including here in Oregon.

The massacre killed at least 321 people and injured hundreds more.

RELATED: Sri Lanka bombings a 'brand-new type of terrorism'

Originally from Colombo, the largest city in Sri Lanka, Shyam Mahakalanda moved to Fiji to study medicine. After that, Mahakalanda moved to Corvallis in 2016 to earn his Ph.D. in public health.

"If Corvallis is America, I say come here. You're safe," he said.

Growing up, he recalls his country in conflict but said things were looking up in 2009.

"We all thought it was going to be over," he said.

Sunday's attack shows the violence is far from over.

"I did manage to get through to my brother who said everyone is fine, but the country is not," he said.

In a state of shock, Mahakalanda watched the carnage on the news 8,000 miles away from his home. He was overjoyed to learn his family members survived, but not everyone he loves did.

"When 300 people die in Colombo, we are bound to know someone there, so yeah, I do know a couple of people who died. It's hard. It's hard to think about it," he said.

At times, the pain of losing friends and watching his country suffer is too much to bare, but the people of Corvallis picked him up when it seemed impossible to stand.

"Obviously, it's an exciting day. We're celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, but while that's happening, people are mourning the loss of tons of people they know and love," said Josh Carstensen, a pastor at Northwest Hills Community Church in Corvallis.

Carstensen held a moment of silence for Sri Lanka and Mahakalanda at a service on Sunday.

"That was the moment I felt these people won't let me fall. The people here won't let me fall," Mahakalanda said.

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