‘It was beautiful’: Iranian teen talks about unity following tragic plane crash

Story by CBC Kids News • Published 2020-01-10 17:12
UPDATE: This article was first published on Jan. 10. On Jan. 11, the Iranian government admitted the plane was shot down by accident.

Investigation ongoing as Canada seeks answers

Many Canadians are experiencing a tragedy this week, even though the events happened halfway around the world.

On Wednesday, a plane carrying 176 people crashed shortly after it took off from Tehran, the capital of Iran.

The Ukraine International Airlines flight was destined for Kiev, Ukraine, and many on board were connecting to Toronto.

Map showing Canada, Iran and Ukraine

Everyone on the plane died. In total, 138 people were en route to Canada and 63 were Canadian citizens.

Parsa Albeheshti, 17, heard about the plane crash shortly after it happened.

He was born in Iran and moved to Canada five years ago.

The Grade 11 student from North York, Ont., doesn’t know anyone who was on the plane, but several members of his family and his friends do.

“It made me feel how closely connected my community is,” he said.

He helped organize a vigil in North York on Thursday night, which about 1,000 people attended.

A woman speaks in the front of a room where there are photos and flowers laid on a table.

People laid flowers beside photos of victims of the plane crash at a vigil that Paras Albeheshti helped organize in North York on Jan. 9. (Elham Eslami)

“Last night at the vigil, the sense of unity that I felt, that had brought people from all walks of life together… the unity that 1,000 people felt in that room as they came together to mourn their loved ones, I think it was beautiful.”

As news has spread about the victims, vigils have been organized in various Canadian communities.

A memorial was set up at Western Canada High School in Calgary for one of the victims of the crash who attended the school. Students wrote messages that will be shared with the teen’s family. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

More events are happening in the coming days to remember the victims, including a vigil organized by the York Region District School Board in the area north of Toronto.

Students will read poems and sing songs as an opportunity to “grieve and talk to one another,” said Licinio Miguelo, spokesperson for the school board.

He added that social workers, psychologists and therapy dogs were on hand at the schools on Friday to help grieving students.

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Investigation ongoing

The cause of the crash is still under dispute.

On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was evidence that an Iranian missile had brought down the plane.

On Saturday, Iranian officials confirmed that was true.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the media on Thursday, saying evidence suggests that a missile brought down Flight PS752. (Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images)

Understanding what happened could be difficult because there are several factors to consider.

The plane crashed in Iran, so it’s up to their government to investigate, but Canada wants specific answers, because of the number of Canadian casualties.

“We will be involved,” Trudeau said. “We will offer all the expertise we have to offer.”

But Canada and Iran are not the best of friends, so it could take some convincing. Iran is allowing Canada to be involved, but very minimally.

At least one expert from Canada’s Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is planning to travel to the site of the crash.

Dozens of light candles and flowers at a vigil

In Toronto, hundreds of people lit candles for the victims of the plane crash at a vigil on Thursday evening. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Tension is high between Iran and Canada’s biggest ally, the U.S., since President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike that killed one of Iran’s most powerful military commanders on Jan. 3.

Parsa said the plane crash is a reminder of how devastating war can be.

“If there was a complete invasion of Iran, it would be so much worse,” he said.

Black box recovered

There’s also the question of the black box.

Every plane has a box that is designed to survive a plane crash.

It contains information about the flight that can help in the investigation, such as information about the speed and altitude of the plane, as well as the voices of the pilot and other crew members in the cockpit.

It could help determine if there was a technical problem on the plane before it went down.

There are reports the black box was retrieved from the crash, but Iran has not offered to share its information with Canada.

Friends and relatives of people killed in the plane crash gather on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 9. (Dave Chan/Getty Images)

With files from CBC News

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article included a map that placed Ukraine where Kazakhstan is.