'Future generations will know what happened here': Tree memorial honours mosque shooting victims
U.S. Consulate donates tree and plaque for victims of January 2017 attacks in Quebec City
Boufeldja Benabdallah's passion for trees and nature is contagious.
The vice-president of Quebec City's Cultural Islamic Centre studied forestry engineering at Laval University in the 1970s.
As he touched the needles of the blue spruce that was planted steps away from the side entrance of the Sainte-Foy mosque, he explained the symbolism this tree now carries.
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The U.S. Consulate General in Quebec City donated the Colorado spruce, also unveiling a plaque on Friday in honour of the six men who were killed in a shooting at the mosque on Jan. 29, 2017.
At the inauguration ceremony, Benabdallah said the mosque chose to plant the tree near the side entrance, steps away from where one of the victims fell.
''We planted it here out front, where there is light. The blue spruce can live 150 years," he said. "It will turn blue and reach for the sky."
'Show of solidarity'
At the ceremony, U.S. Consul General Allison Areias-Vogel paid tribute to the victims, those injured during the attack, as well as their families.
"These families are also heroes. They get up every morning knowing they have to continue on without their loved one,'' Vogel said during her speech.
The tree was entirely the idea of Areias-Vogel, said Benabdallah.
It will provide shade and beauty, protection, all the things that the people who died provided for their families,- U.S. Consul General Allison Areias Vogel
''So I thought rather than give flowers that will eventually fade, why don't we give a tree, something that will live on in their memory,'' Areias-Vogel said.
She said the Colorado spruce happens to be her favourite tree, and was chosen because it keeps its needles in winter.
"We wanted something that was positive," she said.
"It will provide shade and beauty, protection, all the things that the people who died provided for their families."
Families grieving in private
While families were grateful for the gesture, Benabdallah said they continue to grieve in private.
"It is still very difficult for them,'' Benabdallah said. "They must take care of the kids, of everything, and their husbands aren't there when they wake up to say good morning."
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Zahia Sais, who attended Friday prayer at the mosque, wanted to stay for the ceremony with her daughter.
The six men who died during the attack on Jan. 29, 2017 are Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Aboubaker Thabti and Azzeddine Soufiane.