Julie Tran and Mark Mariani's siblings bond over their loss
Dino Mariani reached out to Billy Tran after learning the younger man was struggling with grief
They wish they'd never had to meet but there's a fondness between Billy Tran and Dino Mariani that is obvious.
They share the unique burden of losing a sibling in a violent attack and that's created an immediate bond between the two.
"It's an isolating feeling," said Mariani. "You feel like the whole world is crashing down."
Mariani's brother Mark was beaten to death by two white supremacists in 2010 and Tran's developmentally disabled sister Julie was stabbed to death in November 2015 alongside her caretaker Selma Alem.
Recently after seeing news coverage of Tran speaking about his grief following the loss of his sister, Mariani reached out to offer his support to the younger man who seemed to be struggling.
The call came at the perfect moment for Tran, who says he has felt lost since his sister's death.
"It's really nice just to be able to talk to him and have someone who understands what I'm going through because I feel as though I've been going crazy," said Tran.
Julie Tran was living with Selma Alem when they were killed. Alem's son Emmanuel Kahsai — who she had sought court protection from — is charged with their murders.
Mariani pushed painful memories aside to be at the Calgary courthouse with Tran on Tuesday when Kahsai made an appearance.
"I know what it feels like to want people to be there in your corner and feel like you're surrounded by protection," said Mariani.
'It's been good for my heart and my soul'
Even though it's been years since his brother's murder, Mariani says he still feels a nagging need to bring something positive out of the painful experience.
"This is the burden that we've been saddled with, we have to be there to help other people, that's what life's about, right?" said Mariani.
"It's easy to say that I was doing it for Billy but I'm getting a lot out of it as well. It's been good for my heart and my soul to talk about it."
A date for a preliminary inquiry was set on Tuesday for Nov. 8, 2016, and a trial is likely still a year or two away. Still, Tran is already looking ahead to how he might help others in the same way Mariani is helping him.
"There are others out there who are willing to share the pain."