A University of Calgary theatre was packed and guests spilled out into the hallway to watch the service on monitors on Sunday, as hundreds mourned those killed in the Jan. 8 plane crash in Iran.
All 176 passengers aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, from Tehran to Kyiv, were killed when the Iranian military unintentionally shot it down.
Mohammad Abbaspour organized the memorial, saying “we couldn’t mourn this alone.”
“This is the only way that we could express our feelings,” he said.
“All the students here had at least one or a few friends on that plane. We couldn’t do anything less to express our deep sadness. This is a celebration of their lives and also an opportunity for us to heal our hearts. Everybody is heartbroken. We had friends, we had very good memories with them, and we also hear the stories of someone we didn’t know but that is very tragic.”
Abbaspour was friends with crash victim Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi, a University of Alberta engineering master’s graduate.
“Once we were on a plane from here to Iran, so I can’t imagine thinking of the moments on the plane that he may have had,” he said.
Abbaspour is remembering his friend as energetic and happy.
“Always hopeful, very talented, lots of achievements in his career,” he said. “The first thing I can remember of him is just a very nice smile on his face every time.”
With hundreds inside the theatre and a lineup forming to sign the condolence book, the turnout at Sunday’s vigil pleased Abbaspour.
“It shows that all the community is heartbroken over this tragedy,” he said.
“We didn’t have enough time to organize and advertise for this event, and as you see, everybody has come far more than we expected. This shows the empathy, sympathy from all the people here and that also calms us.”