Solemn crowd gathers at UPEI memorial for victims of plane crash in Iran

UPEI's McMillan Hall overflowed with mourners Monday evening as people gathered to pay their respects to those who were killed in the tragic plane crash in Iran last week.

'I thought that it was fake news'

The UPEI Iranian Society and the Chaplaincy Centre hosted Monday's vigil. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

UPEI's McMillan Hall overflowed with mourners Monday evening as people gathered to pay their respects to those who were killed in the tragic plane crash in Iran last week.

There were 176 people, passengers and crew, on board the flight from Tehran headed to Ukraine.

It was just a few minutes into the flight when the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Everyone, including the 57 Canadian passengers, were killed.

Members of P.E.I.'s Persian community worked with the UPEI Iranian Society and the Chaplaincy Centre to host Monday's vigil.

Photographs of people killed in the plane crash last week sat on display at the memorial. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

"My disbelief was quickly followed by pain, anger and tears that were really covering up a hurt that violence could still be a part of our world," said UPEI chaplain Sister Sue Kidd, during her opening remarks.

"Our prime minister has called this a Canadian tragedy. He speaks of the hope, the strength and the confidence that's gone. The dreams that have become struggle and the confidence that has become loss and that's why we gather to support each in the midst of loss, pain and disbelief."

P.E.I. connection

The evening was filled with sombre music, poetry and words. A candlelit table with photos sat as a shrine to those lost.

Aria Nabizadeh lost his aunt and cousin in the crash. (Ken Linton/CBC )

For Aria Nabizadeh, a student at Holland College, the tragedy was personal. He and his sister Ava, a UPEI student, lost their aunt, Farzaneh Naderi, and 11 year-old cousin Noojan Sadr who were returning to their home in Winnipeg, Man.

"When I saw the news, I thought that it was fake news," Nabizadeh said. "I couldn't describe it to myself. That was too hard to believe that and after a while, like 30 minutes later, I was refreshing the news every second, every moment. And I figured out, unfortunately, the news is right."

Nabizadeh said his young cousin had a love of discussing things with adults and had plans to work as a lawyer, or with a big tech company.

"Noojan was the best and brightest child I have ever seen," he said, adding Noojan's mother was the best aunt. 

Aria Nabizadeh's aunt Farzaneh Naderi and her 11-year-old son Noojan Sadr were killed in the crash. (Submitted by Negysa Kalar)

Many at the vigil said it was very touching to see so many come out to support the Iranian community, something Nabizadeh said is a help in moving forward. 

"The Iranian community and Canadian citizens helped me a lot," Nabizadeh said. "They were doing all they can do and as you see, they have done everything they can do and thank you to all of them."

The flags outside the Kelley Memorial Building at UPEI have been flying at half-mast since the crash, and will remain that way until Wednesday.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Natalia Goodwin


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