Windsor

UWindsor mourns loss of 'key members' of campus community after Iran plane crash

All five people killed in the Iran plane crash with connections to the University of Windsor are being remembered as key members of the campus, leaders in their discipline and beloved in the broader community.

'I'm witnessing these students come together in a way I don't think I've ever seen before.'

These five Windsorites were killed during a plane crash in Iran. (Submitted/CBC)

The five people killed in the Iran plane crash with connections to the University of Windsor are being remembered as key members of the campus, leaders in their discipline, and beloved in the broader community.

Students have a place to silently grieve together on campus. There's a room inside the engineering building with large photographs of those who died, with bright smiles on their faces.

For Nasim Rezaei, who knew two of the people killed, seeing pictures of her friends triggers a wave of emotions.

"It makes their voice go in my head. I remember our conversations and when I see their pictures, their voice comes alive in my head," said Rezaei. "That's really torturing."

Nasim Rezaei remembers Zahra Naghibi and her husband Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi as welcoming, supportive people. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

'I couldn't convince myself that they were on that plane'

The Ukraine International Airlines flight was travelling from Tehran to Kyiv, with at least 63 Canadians on board, before it went down early Wednesday morning, local time.

University of Windsor student Samaneh Mehri reached out to her friend Samira Bashiri the night of the plane crash. Bashiri was on the flight with her husband Hamidreza Setareh Kokab. She never received a response.

"I couldn't convince myself that they were on that plane," said Mehri. "Unfortunately they were."

University of Windsor student Samaneh Mehri reached out to her friend the night of the plane crash in Iran. She never received a response. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Alumni Hall on the University of Windsor's campus. It will be an "important healing event for the community," according to university president Robert Gordon.

"This is a real tragedy for our institution with individuals who are near and dear to everything we do as a university being lost," said Gordon."These individuals are key members of our University of Windsor community."

Windsor's Iranian community close-knit

Even people who weren't students themselves are dealing with the emotional loss, as the Iranian community in Windsor is "tight."

Rezaei's husband is a University of Windsor student. The couple knew Zahra Naghibi and her husband Mohammad Abbas Pourghaddi, who died on the Ukrainian International Airlines flight.

"They were really supportive. They created this environment that we all get together during weekends," said Rezaei, who knew them for about a year.

The gesture was important, she said, because as newcomers they didn't have family here in Canada.

The University of Windsor set up a room for students to grieve inside of the engineering building. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Counselling 'key priority' for university

The University of Windsor is providing counselling services to students and staff, saying it's "key priority" in supporting those affected.

Giselle St. Louis is a clinical therapist for the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Windsor. More than 100 students have come to the designated space at the university to mourn, pay their respects and grieve.

"I'm witnessing these students come together in a way I don't think I've ever seen before," she said. "There's an intimacy. There's a connectedness."

University of Windsor President Robert Gordon said the institution is offering counselling to students and staff following the deadly Iran plane crash. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The University of Windsor is one of several Canadian universities that have lost people in the plane crash connected to those institutions, the university's president said.

"People are really struggling," said Gordon. "These were colleagues that they saw before the holidays, friends that they spent an incredible amount of time with on a daily basis."

Roughly 25 per cent of the University of Windsor's students are international, according to Gordon, but he couldn't say with certainty the status of the students who were killed. Many current students are from India and China, and there's a "growing number" attending from Iran.

With files from Katerina Georgieva

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