In the early evening of Friday, January 10, on the second floor of the John Deutsch University Centre at Queen’s University, two large meeting halls were packed from wall to wall with students and other Queen’s community members, all gathered at a memorial vigil to bring some light into the darkness of their shock and grief.
Two days earlier, on Wednesday, January 8, Ukrainian Airline flight PS752 crashed in Tehran, Iran with no survivors among the 167 passengers and 9 crew members aboard. 138 of the passengers were bound for Canada, including Amir Moradi, a third-year student in the Faculty of Arts & Science at Queen’s.
Friday’s vigil was already being planned by the Iranian Students Association of Queen’s University even before it was confirmed on Thursday afternoon that one of their own classmates was among the dead. The entire campus community was rocked by the news, and the vigil, originally expected to host a maximum of about 100 attendees, was flooded with over five times that number of mourners.
Many wept quietly as a slideshow displayed the names and faces of the victims.
Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson directed the attendees in a moment of silence, and then encouraged people to write their thoughts or prayers onto small sticky-notes at a table at the front of the room, and leave them on the table as a collective memorial. As they moved to the front to write their notes, mourners also brought flowers, photographs, and mementos that quickly filled the table.
The close ties and common shared-experiences of the Iranian academic community were evident. After the vigil, two Queen’s students wishing to be identified only as Sevea and Arian, mentioned that while they didn’t know Amir Moradi personally, they were friends with a student who attends another Canadian university who had died in the crash. “We are in shock,” Arian added, “because it could have been us. We flew from Iran two weeks ago on the same flight-path. So many come this way.”
One student carrying a photograph, who did not wish to be identified by name, said that Amir had been two years ahead of her at the same high school, and that they shared many friends.
“I was expecting to be profoundly sad coming here, and I am,” another student reflected, “but I wasn’t expecting to also feel uplifted by seeing so many people here together to grieve this tragedy.”
Students in need of support are encouraged to contact QUIC at 613-533-2604, Faith and Spiritual Life at 613-533-2186, or Student Wellness Services at 613-533-2506. Empower Me provides 24/7 confidential counselling by phone and online, and a post-secondary student helpline called Good2Talk is also available for 24/7 confidential support at 1-866-925-5454.