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'Everyone in the community has felt this loss': UBC mourns siblings killed on Iran flight

Last Updated Jan 10, 2020 at 8:35 am PST

(Tarnjit Parmar, NEWS 1130 photo)

Mohammad and Zeynab Lari were among the casualties of Wednesday's crash in Iran

The siblings attended UBC and were mourned by friends and family at a vigil Thursday evening

176 people died on the downed flight, most aboard were headed to Canada

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Soheil Naserri last spoke to his friend Mohammad on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, he learned that Mohammad Hossein Lari, 23, and his sister Zeynab Asadi Lari, 21, were two of the 176 people who died when a plane crashed minutes after takeoff in Iran.

“It was immensely shocking. Unbelievable. I had no immediate reaction because I very genuinely felt like it was some kind of sick joke,” Naserri says. “As it slowly started to internalize I was filled with an endless sense of grief, immense mourning at the prospect of not seeing him anymore, at the prospect of the lost potential.”

Naserri’s voice wavers as he says he wishes he would have had more time to get to know Zeynab.

But he remembers his friend Mohammad–who he met in Grade 12 and who was born just days before him in March of 1997–as a person of “endless empathy.”

“Someone who would go out of his way to make sure that all your needs were taken care of. He would always follow up with you. He would try to encourage you. He would try to always motivate you to be the best that you could become. He saw potential in you before you even saw it in yourself.”

Over a hundred people gathered at UBC to mourn the siblings, who both attended the school.

“Everyone in the community has felt this loss. Even those who had very limited interaction with them have been crying non-stop,” Nasseri explains. “As a community, we feel a loss beyond just the person, but [a loss] of ideas, of motivation, of empowerment, and a future that has been lost too soon.”

One of Zeynab’s friends spoke to the tearful crowd about how she and Zeynab crammed for final exams together while wearing matching hoodies. They would unwind by playing dominoes and watching their favourite Persian TV shows.

They both studied Biology and met during the first week at UBC.

“A mutual friend introduced us and said, ‘I think you guys will be good friends,'” she says. “That couldn’t have been truer. We instantly connected. She immediately became a part of my family.”

Two other people connected to UBC have been identified as passengers and campus flags flew at half-staff Thursday.

Niloofar Razzaghi earned two degrees from UBC, and Dr. Mehran Abtah was doing a post-doctoral fellowship in civil engineering at the university.

The vigil comes on the same day that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that intelligence from multiple sources indicates that an Iranian missile downed the Ukraine International Airlines flight that crashed near Tehran.

At least 63 people on the plane were Canadian citizens. 138 were destined for Canada.

One mourner urged the crowd to put the politics aside, and focus on supporting one another and remembering the lives lost.

“For one night, for just tonight I ask that we leave all of that aside and mourn the loss that we feel so deeply,” she said.