“This is the testimony of what Canada is,” said Reza Akbari, the president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.
“I don’t know how to describe what this means to me — this means humanity.”
While more than six weeks have passed since the devastating crash that took the lives of 57 Canadians, emotions for many at the ceremony were still raw.
“I still don’t know how to feel,” Akbari said. “Forty-five days pass, we still at some corner of our eyes, we’re feeling like it’s going to be a dream.”
The plane was shot down by Iranian missiles on Jan. 8, just minutes after it took off from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport. A total of 176 people were on board.
Thirteen people from Edmonton — nine citizens and four international students — were on the plane. They included a medical doctor and her two daughters, two professors and their children, and a number of students from the University of Alberta.
“This immense loss of life that took place on that January day is still hard to wrap your head around,” Mayor Don Iveson said.
“Each loss of life and all that loss put together leaves a tremendous scar.”
While Saturday’s event was filled with tributes, there was also anger from some families who want answers.
Since Iran admitted it shot down the plane due to “human error,” it has refused to hand over the black boxes recovered from the crash site.
Javad Soleimani lost his wife Elnaz Nabiyi in the crash and said he wants “justice” for what happened.
“Elnaz and I were supposed to be in Vancouver for reading week — that is this week — but now I’m here at her memorial with only a photo of her,” he said.
Soleimani said he had to help identify his wife’s body.
“All bodies were burned and crushed, except her hand,” he said. “From her wrist to fingertips.”
“We will never forget, we will never forgive. We want justice,” said Soleimani.
— With files from The Canadian Press