Staff and fellow classmates at Calgary’s Western Canada High School are still feeling numb by the sudden loss of a star athlete.
The school is paying tribute to Arshia Arbabbahrami, a Grade 12 student who had aspirations of becoming an Olympian and a doctor.
Yasmin Salehi, Arbabbahrami’s closest friend, said all of their friends are still in shock.
“He worked so hard. He was so young — had so many dreams,” Salehi said.
Salehi said it’s particularly hard to accept because he wasn’t supposed to be on the flight that crashed. She said he had switched his plane ticket at the last minute, concerned about the recent unrest in the region.
“I still can’t believe he was on the plane,” she said.
“He had another ticket but changed his plane to come earlier because of what’s happening back home. Everyone was scared there was going to be a war happening.”
On Friday, YMCA Calgary said it was also mourning Arbabbahrami’s death.
“A participant in the YMCA Achievement Program (YMAP), Arshia was a valued and loved member of the program that provides leadership and teamwork opportunities for newcomer youth in our community,” president Shannon Doram said in a statement.
“For two years, Arshia faithfully attended every YMAP session and was known as a young man that always made an impact with his smile and positive attitude.”
YMCA Calgary extended its condolences to Arbabbahrami’s family and said it was offering YMAP youth, volunteers and staff with resources to cope with this loss.
Kasra Saati was also on that flight. Friends say the 47-year-old was a smart, driven and devoted family man who moved to Calgary in 2013.
Friend Nina Saeidpour said Saati was in Iran to spend the holidays with his wife, his son and new baby girl. His wife was in their home country on maternity leave.
“I can’t imagine what she’s going through,” Saeidpour said. “So heartbreaking — you see you husband for a couple of weeks and then just hoping he’s going back home to make it ready for you and all of sudden… This news hits you really hard for her and her family.”
The close-knit Iranian-Canadian community in Calgary is gathering for a candlelight vigil at Tomkins Park, at 17th Avenue and 8th Street S.W., on Friday at 4 p.m.
“We moved to this country with two suitcases and we are here depending on friends, so it’s important during these sad times to get together,” Saeidpour said.
Premier Jason Kenney said he’s considering a larger provincially supported public memorial should the community need it, in the weeks to come.