‘We lost a lot’: Halifax vigil remembers victims of Iran plane crash

Masoud Adibi spoke softly and with laboured breaths as he thanked people who gathered at the Al Rasoul Islamic Society centre in Bedford, N.S., for a vigil Thursday night.

Adibi lost his wife, Dr. Sharieh Faghihi, in the Ukraine International Airlines plane crash Wednesday morning. The Halifax dentist was among several women who lived in or had ties to Nova Scotia and perished in the crash.

“This tragedy was very, very hard for all the passenger’s families, and for Halifax community, even for Canadian people,” Adibi said.

Several elected officials, including Premier Stephen McNeil, former colleagues and religious leaders spoke to the hundreds of people present, many of whom are part of the local Iranian community.

“It’s a national disaster for Canada, we lost a lot, a huge asset,” said Ali Nafarieh, president of the Iranian Cultural Association of Nova Scotia.

Dr. Sharieh Faghihi, left, and Dal engineering student Masoumeh Ghavi. (Dal.ca/Instagram)

For the past several months, he worked with Masoumeh Ghavi at his Bedford information technology company, Hanatech.

“I cannot still believe she’s not coming back,” he said. “In addition to skills, experience … what she brought to the company, mainly, was energy. All the time she was wearing the smile, beautiful smile, you can see it in her picture … Masi will be missed forever.”

McNeil said looking at photos of the people who were on board Flight PS752 has been a reminder of “so much lost potential and the impact this will have on our communities.”

Hundreds of people attended an evening vigil at the Al Rasoul Islamic Society in Bedford, N.S., Thursday. (Robert Short/CBC)

“To the family members who are with us today, your depth of loss is unthinkable for many of us. I hope the presence of everyone here is of some comfort that we are here to support you in this journey ahead and to know that you are not alone,” said McNeil.

No one at the vigil brought up the development that emerged Tuesday afternoon — that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said intelligence now indicates the Ukrainian passenger aircraft was shot down by an Iranian missile, perhaps unintentionally.

Iran plane crash victims Fatemeh Mahmoodi, left, and Maryam Malek were both students in the master of finance program at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. (LinkedIn/Supplied)

McNeil called the tragedy “senseless” and said he could appreciate that even answers might never alleviate the pain of the losses. 

Several graduate students on the plane were living in Halifax. Ghavi, 30, was studying engineering at Dalhousie and was travelling back to Canada with her younger sister, Mandieh Ghavi, 20, who was to study in the city. 

Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad with her daughters, Saba Saadat, left, and Sara Saadat, right. The family lived in Halifax before moving to Edmonton. (Submitted by Mehdi Hashemi)

Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi were both enrolled in the master of finance program at Saint Mary’s University.

Family members of Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad and her daughters, Saba and Sara Saadat, were also at the memorial.

The family lived in Halifax before moving to Edmonton where Choupannejad worked as an obstetrician-gynecologist and her daughters attended the University of Alberta.

Rafah DiCostanzo, the MLA for Clayton Park West, said hearing about the students flying back to Canada reminded her of the trips she made home to Iraq when she was a student. Her mother would start cooking her favourite dishes in the weeks leading up to her return.

Premier Stephen McNeil called the crash ‘senseless’ and said people in Nova Scotian are mourning alongside the Iranian community. (Robert Short/CBC)

“It was such a big celebration to get their daughter who was studying abroad home and it was so hard for me to say bye,” she said. “All I want to say tonight is those mothers, I want to thank them for sending their daughters to study in Canada. It takes a lot of guts from mothers and fathers to allow their daughters to come and study.

“We are so lucky here to get the best of the best who want to come and study here. They make our province, our country so much better.”

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