Nova Scotia

'We are all with you': Vigil held in Halifax for victims of Iran plane crash

Several people on board the flight that crashed on Wednesday were residents of Halifax.

'It was a flight of beautiful smiles, it was a flight of beautiful minds'

Close to 1,000 people attended a vigil in Halifax on Saturday to remember those who died after a plane was struck by a missile in Iran on Wednesday. (CBC)

A vigil was held in Halifax on Saturday afternoon for victims of this week's plane crash in Iran.

Close to 1,000 people packed the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium to pay their respects.

Several people on board had direct ties to Nova Scotia, including Masoumeh Ghavi, Mandieh Ghavi, Dr. Sharieh (Sheri) Faghihi, Fatemeh Mahmoodi, Maryam Malek and Saba Sadaat.

"Today is the day of grief, for losing our loved one, for missing them, for not seeing them anymore, for not hearing them voice, not seeing their smiles," Alireza Nafarieh, president of the Iranian Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, said during the vigil.

"Also today is the day of celebration — celebrating their valuable lives, their beautiful souls, their unforgettable memories and all the good things they have left behind."

Alireza Nafarieh, president of the Iranian Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, spoke at the vigil on Saturday. (CBC)

Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 bound for Kyiv from Tehran was shot down on Wednesday. All 176 people on board were killed, including 57 Canadians.

On Friday, Iran admitted to accidentally shooting down the plane with a missile.

Tehran says the aircraft was targeted "unintentionally" hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.

Masoumeh Ghavi was working on her master's degree in engineering at Dalhousie University and working part time at an IT company in Bedford. (Instagram)

The attack had been in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. A military statement said the plane was mistaken for a "hostile target."

'A flight of hopes'

Nafarieh said all Iranians and Iranian-Canadians deserve to know what happened. He pointed out that many of the passengers were PhD candidates, doctors, dentists and graduate students.

"It was not flight of death, it was a flight of hopes. It was a flight of beautiful smiles, it was a flight of beautiful minds, it was flight of innocent souls and it was a flight of intellectuals."

Fatemeh Mahmoodi was a graduate student at Saint Mary's University. (Fatemeh Mahmoodi/LinkedIn)

Nova Scotia MLA Lena Diab, speaking on behalf of Premier Stephen McNeil, said "we share your grief, we share your sorrow."

"Coming from a cultural community, I know what it's like to be going home for Christmas to your country of origin and I know the preparation that it takes for those back home," she said.

"I know the tragedies when we lose people senselessly, so for all of you here today please know that we are all with you."

Marjan Adibi, the sister-in-law of Dr. Sharieh Faghihi, said, above all, Faghihi was a devoted mother.

Adibi said she would never have dreamed she would be giving a eulogy for Faghihi, especially because she was the younger of the two.

"With her sudden death, she brought us together more closer. She made us realize how great she was and how great she lived," Adibi said.

Dr. Sheri Faghihi worked as a dentist in Halifax for several years. (Alumni Anchor/Dal.ca)

Adibi said the magnitude and impact of Faghihi's death is great.

"I love you Sheri and I always will," Adibi said, tearfully.

'Devastating time'

A friend of Malek and Mahmoodi spoke at the vigil. She said Mahmoodi made her and her friends laugh while they were studying for exams.

She said Mahmoodi's sister was the only one who knew she was coming home and that she planned to surprise her parents in the kitchen.

Those close to the victims say they're still processing the news.

"It's a really, really devastating time for us," Mahsa Majidi, a friend of Masoumeh Ghavi said ahead of the vigil.

Masoumeh and Mahdieh Ghavi were travelling to Halifax together after a holiday in Iran. (Instagram)

Majidi said Masoumeh had gone to Iran to bring back her sister, Mandieh, who was planning to study in Halifax. She said Masoumeh had been looking forward to having her sister in the city.

"She was a really kind, social person. She had this big smile on her face all the time, even if she was sad or stressed. She was trying to help everyone she knew," Majidi said.

Sadra Kord-Jamshidi, president of the Dalhousie Iranian Students Society, said the crash was shocking. He also knew Masoumeh Ghavi.

He said he is glad people are coming together to remember the people who died.

"To realize our friends and the people from this community were actually among [the victims] was unbearable, we didn't know what to think," Kord-Jamshidi said. "It was a great loss."

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With files from Emma Davie and CBC News Network