Together in friendship and grief: UTM holds vigil for victims of Flight 752

Friday, January 17, 2020 - 11:12am
Patricia Lonergan

Students, faculty and staff at UTM gathered on Thursday to remember those who were on Ukrainian International Airlines flight 752, including fourth-year UTM biology student Zeynab Asadi Lari and her brother Mohammad.

The atrium of Maanjiwe nendamowinan was filled with those who came together in their shared grief after the tragic crash just outside Tehran on Jan. 8 killed all on board.

Eight of those on the flight, including six students, were from the U of T community.

“We mourn for every single one of them,” said Mark Overton, dean of student affairs and assistant principal, student services.

The vigil started with a prayer led by Imam Mustafa Khattab before the names of those from the U of T community on the flight were read out. Those gathered hugged one another, shared fond memories of Asadi Lari and her brother, and wrote messages in a book of condolences that will be sent to Asadi Lari’s family.

Friends of Asadi Lari who spoke at the vigil, many holding back tears, recalled an intelligent young woman who brought people together and was always there to help a friend in need.

Described as a generous, uncomplicated and kind person, Asadi Lari is remembered for bringing together many who came from broken friendships. She not only brought them together, she “kept us united,” said Fatima Sahibzada. “She had a kind personality and a heart full of love.”

“Each moment with Zeynab was significant,” added Hamna Zubair. “‘Together’ was her word.”

Many shared memories of when Asadi Lari would reach out to them to help, bringing light to dark moments and promising those going through difficulties that they would get through it together.

“She made us less lonely,” said Saleha Zubair. “As long as Zeynab was by my side, I was powerful, I was unstoppable.”

Students hugging
Students gather to support one another during a vigil held to remember UTM student Zeynab Asadi Lari, her brother Mohammad and others who were on the Ukrainian airlines flight that crashed in Iran on Jan. 8. (Photo by Drew Lesiuczok)

Fiona Rawle, associate professor of biology, explained Asadi Lari was a “fierce advocate” for showing emotion and ending the stigma related to mental health. “She would want you to grieve together.”

A phenomenal friend, Asadi Lari also knew what it took to succeed. Friends and faculty recall she was driven, focused and hardworking with clear goals for the future.

Rawle said one of the greatest joys of her job is watching students set goals and try to achieve them. Asadi Lari, who was “fiercely competitive with herself and immensely collaborative with everyone,” achieved many of her goals, Rawle said.

Assistant professor of biology Jade Atallah said Asadi Lari came to her with eyes filled with excitement. She was a vibrant, passionate and driven student with a clear view of what it took to succeed, Atallah said, adding that vision and drive is what led her to create a way for students to take charge of their future. She founded the UTM branch of STEM Fellowship, a student-run, non-profit organization that strives to engage future STEM leaders. Her brother, Mohammad, a student at St. George, was a co-founder and former managing director with the organization.

Seyed Mohammad Ebrahim Naghavi, a companion of Mohammad’s since fifth grade, described his friend as “energetic, ambitious and helpful to others.

“I truly believe in the potential Mohammad and Zeynab had,” Naghavi said. “My world will not be the same without him.”

Friends took some small measure of solace that, in their final moments, Asadi Lari and her brother had each other.

“You deserve better,” Atallah said. “We will do better than what was done to you. We need to do better. We need to aim as high as Zeynab did.”

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