Man who lost 'love of my life' in Iran plane crash plans to keep alive her legacy of caring
'She taught me how to love, how to connect with people and how to open up'
Daniel Ghods-Esfahani lost his beloved girlfriend in Wednesday's plane crash in Iran, and says he plans to dedicate his life to ensuring her legacy of caring and kindness continues.
Saba Saadat and her sister, Sara, and their mother, Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad were killed when a Ukrainian passenger plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Tehran's international airport.
The sisters were passionate about helping immigrants and people in the LGBTQ community, Ghods-Esfahani said.
That's a legacy he hopes to carry on.
WATCH: Daniel Ghods-Esfahani speak about his girlfriend Saba Saadat and her family
"In light of what has happened, it is my passion to pursue everything that she [Saba] was passionate about," Ghods-Esfahani told CBC News on Thursday. "Part of that is incorporating everything that she cared about, everything that she stood for and everything that she wanted to accomplish in her life, and be able to honour that on her behalf."
Saba Saadat, 21, was on her way home to Edmonton to begin her final semester at the University of Alberta, where she would have graduated this spring with a science degree. She planned to follow her mother into a career in medicine.
Her mother was an obstetrician-gynecologist who worked in Edmonton and Camrose, Alta.
Staff have set up a memorial with candles and flowers in the waiting room of the Northgate Centre Medical Clinic, where Choupannejad worked for the last five years and was remembered by colleagues for the laughter and joy she brought to the clinic.
"As a colleague, I will not forget her in my life," family physician Dr. Mahmoud Ismael said Thursday. He said patients have been calling the clinic to offer condolences.
"Seeing the impact her mom had on the community was a big motivating factor for [Saba]," said Ghods-Esfahani, who is studying medicine at the University of Calgary.
Sara Saadat, 23, completed a bachelor of science degree at the U of A last May, and had been accepted at Alliant International University in San Diego, where she planned to study to be a clinical psychologist.
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Ghods-Esfahani said he was texting with his girlfriend on Tuesday evening, excited that she would soon be returning to Edmonton from a vacation in Iran.
He was tracking the flight online when he learned of the crash. He quickly packed a bag and drove to Edmonton to be with family.
Friends and relatives will remember Saba for her contagious laugh, he said.
"She would tell me that she would laugh out of awkwardness in certain situations," he said. "But to me it was her spreading positivity. She will be remembered as a contagiously positive leader who truly cared about people."
His girlfriend's family left Iran for Canada about seven years ago, he said, arriving on the East Coast, where they had relatives. According to Choupannejad's LinkedIn profile, she worked in Halifax from 2011 to 2014.
The family eventually moved to Edmonton. An older brother now lives in Toronto, Ghods-Esfahani said. Their father is in Iran.
Ghods-Esfahani first met Saba three years ago through mutual friends, when both were students at the University of Alberta.
They lived near each other, and he began giving her rides to school. They became friends and their bond grew from there.
"She taught me how to love, how to connect with people, and how to open up," he said. "I can honestly say she was the love of my life, and having lost her in this incident makes me feel very empty and cold."
Ghods-Esfahani said he felt a responsibility to tell the story of these three remarkable women.
"I want everyone to know what amazing people they were," he said.
Given all the recent tragedies in the world, Ghods-Esfahani said he's worried people have become desensitized.
"I just ask everyone to fight this," he said. "Maintain your sense of humanity. Do so by being kind to one another. Say hi to your neighbours, ask your friends how they are feeling from time to time."
No ideology, he said, should supersede the value of humanity.
"We are not just numbers. The sad reality is that we often realize this when it is too late."