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Still ‘feels like yesterday’: Relatives of Afzaal family prepare for 2nd anniversary of attack

Friends of Yumnah Afzaal unveil a mural at a vigil for the Afzaal family in London, Ont., Monday, June 6, 2022. Geoff Robins / The Canadian Press

The attack on a London, Ont., Muslim family out for a walk continues to leave their relatives in pain, but with the second anniversary of their deaths on Tuesday, they say time is the biggest healer.

June 6 marks two years since the vehicle collision that claimed the lives of Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Salman’s 74-year-old mother Talat Afzaal. The couple’s nine-year-old son sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries and survived.

Authorities have deemed it a hate-motivated attack, with London police saying the truck driver that struck the family, Nathaniel Veltman, targeted the Afzaals because of their Islamic faith.

In a statement released the day before the anniversary by Umar Afzaal and family, they say it still “feels like yesterday” when they last saw the four who died.

“Time is the biggest healer and we have now the courage to thank them for their love and care all these years,” reads part of the statement. “A vacuum has endured for the last two years and we must now live with this emptiness for the rest of our lives.”

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Click to play video: 'Prosecutors say London, Ont., attack was an act of terrorism'
Prosecutors say London, Ont., attack was an act of terrorism

The statement is one of just a handful of times the family has commented publicly on the attack that occurred in June 2021.

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In the statement, the family wrote to each of their lost loved ones.

Salman was a “source of hope for many” that would help anyone no matter their “faiths, ages, gender, colour or creed.” The family added, “Your help in motivating us at different phases of our lives was priceless.”

Madiha is described as someone who brought strength and guidance to her husband and support to his family when Salman’s father grew ill. “We all commit to continuing your legacy and we will love your surviving child the same as our children.”

Yumnah was a “strong and beautiful” teenager. “You left us too soon and we did not get a chance to see you grow and become as successful in your life as we all knew you would be. Our hearts cry for you and we wish you peace.”

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Talat lived a life “full of success and happiness” while devoting time as a teacher and mother. “You have shown us the path of humility, simplicity and self-respect. We will take care of our family, as you have taught us.”

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Three generations of Muslim women reflect on hate in Canada

In the statement, the family thanks the London Muslim Mosque and the London community for “outreach, support and love.”

The Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia is hosting a vigil Tuesday evening at Memorial Plaza, at the intersection of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads, at 6:30 p.m.

Attendees can park at the Real Canada Superstore at 1205 Oxford St., or Lowe’s at 1335 Fanshawe Rd. W. Shuttle buses will provide pick-ups and drop-offs at each location and will take passengers to/from Memorial Plaza.

Road closures surrounding the vigil will be in effect beginning at 4 p.m. More information can be found at www.london.ca/our-london-family.

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