Easter Bombings Shock Sacramento’s Small but Tight-Knit Sri Lankan Community

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SACRAMENTO -- The Easter Sunday tragedy in Sri Lanka hit close to home for many living in Sacramento.

"I was just crying randomly," said Manushi Weerasinghe.

Weerasinghe was born in Sri Lanka. Her extended family still lives there.

When she heard suicide bombers killed at least 290 people at churches and hotels, her thoughts went straight to her family's safety.

"We got lucky. We got to talk with them before there was the shut down on social media," Weerasinghe said. "The government took that action just to make sure there’s no false news spread around."

Thankfully, Weerasinghe's family is OK but her heart aches for her homeland.

"A lot of people aren’t aware that Sri Lanka just came out of a civil war that ran for decades. So, we’ve had about 10 years of peace," she said.

Advocacy groups are also concerned, especially since the attacks targeted places where people were just trying to pray.

"Houses of worship have always been safe places. Now to see the sanctity of life and houses of worship being attacked, it’s something that hurts," said Council on American-Islamic Relations Sacramento spokesman Basim Elkarra.

Meanwhile, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament on K Street, a half dozen people came out to light candles for the hundreds of people who lost their lives in the attack.

“I was really heartbroken with the tragedy that happened in New Zealand a couple weeks back and when I saw this it was just like all over again, you know?” said Mahdi Radwan.

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Trying to Contact Loved Ones Overseas

Raghuram Surenthiran is a Sacramento State student from Sri Lanka.

“I was extremely shocked and upset,” Surenthiran said.

He learned of the Easter Sunday attacks from a frantic text message sent by his mother.

“I was a little confused. I didn’t know maybe it was an accident or…? It couldn’t be five bombs,” Surenthiran said.

He said his country has already seen its share of violent attacks during a 26-year civil war that ended 10 years ago.

Still, he said the terrorist attacks on Sunday were surprising because of whom they targeted.

“In my country, Christians, that community is a very peaceful community,” he told FOX40. “They have no beef with anyone nor no kind of conflicts going on between them.”

With the news of even more attacks on a hotel, zoo and homes in other cities, Surenthiran started to worry about his family and friends. Eventually, he did hear back from his family.

“Last night, I got a message from my mom saying, ‘OK, we’re OK. Don’t worry about it too much,’” he told FOX40.

While he said the messages were a relief, he wishes he could do more. “From here right now, I can’t really do anything.”

However, seeing his countrymen and women come together in unity is comforting.

“They’re being there for each other and helping each other,” Surenthiran said.

He told FOX40 many others Sri Lankans who are studying in the U.S. are having the same problems getting ahold of family and friends.

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