Hannah Rudderham
Hannah Rudderham
January 23, 2020

“The sparkle in our eyes is gone forever”: UNB holds vigil to honour victims of Iranian plane crash

Solati spoke at the vigil about her connection to the victims of the crash | Photo by Jules Keenan

In the rubble of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, a book was found belonging to a victim of the Iranian plane crash, Forough Khadem, that she was supposed to give a talk on nine days later.

Khadem’s name in Persian means sparkle in the eye or candlelight. 

“The sparkle in our eyes is gone forever and candlelight no longer shines,” Fariba Solati, a St. Thomas University professor and friend of Khadim's read from a passage written by her husband. 

“She disappeared in the most horrifying way possible.”

On Jan. 10, over a hundred UNB students, staff, and community members gathered at a vigil showing support for the victims of the plane crash hosted by the UNB Persia club.  

Solati spoke at the vigil about her connection to the victims of the crash, highlighting stories and achievements of her friend Khadem. 

“I called Forough my honorary sister because she was just like a sister,” she said. 

The plane took off from Tehran and was hit by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, killing all individuals on board. 63 Canadians died in the crash along with 113 other nationals from countries such as Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, the UK, Afghanistan, and Germany.  

“The Canadian residents I’ve seen in the media in the last few days [were] extremely talented, passionate, beautiful people. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, researchers – but beyond that, they were brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, best friends,” said Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien.

Hassan Heidarian, a PhD student at UNB and a part of the UNB Persia, opened the evening’s remarks, thanking the large crowd in attendance. 

“The people here are really supportive all the time and that gives us a good feeling, but we are so sorry about our friends,” Heidarian said.

 He highlighted the goal of coming together is to make the dreams of the victims come true. 

“They came from far away, from other parts of the world, to try every day to make some progress, but unfortunately they are no longer with us. We are just trying to make their dreams real.”

At the front of the venue was a table with photos of the victims and white flowers—the sign of sympathy and bereavement. The attendees of the vigil were given white roses and candles to place in front of the photographs nearing the end of the event before refreshments were offered.

Before the flowers and candles were set out, the Director of International Student Advisor’s Office Nancy O’Shea, rose to the podium and read a short poem. 

“In times of darkness, love sees. In times of silence, love hears. In times of doubt, love hopes. In times of sorrow, love heals. And at all times, love remembers,” O’Shea read through tears. 

Paul Mazerolle, UNB president also paid his condolences to the students impacted. With 119 students from Iran studying at UNB, he announced support is available and flags will be at half-mast for the foreseeable future in memory of the victims.

“I know the effects of this tragedy will be felt by many people for a long time,” said Mazerolle. “However, coming together like events such as today, is an important part—indeed a crucial part—of the healing process.”

Counselling services are available at the C.C. Jones Student Centre on the 2nd floor 

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