A sombre silence fell across Canadian university campuses Wednesday as the institutions honoured the 176 lives lost in a plane crash in Iran last week.
Many students, faculty and researchers from more than a dozen Canadian universities were among those who died when the Ukraine International Airlines flight was shot down by the Iranian military.
Several hundred mourners gathered at the University of Waterloo in Ontario to pay tribute to two PhD students — Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan, who was in the faculty of environment, Mansour Esfahani, of the faculty of engineering — and three alumni.
“We have lost so much life and love,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, the university’s president.
Alireza Mohamadizadeh, a PhD engineering student, went to middle school with Esfahani in Iran as 11-year-olds in 2002. He described Esfahani as an intelligent man who as a teen ranked 200 among 600,000 applicants in the nation’s university entrance exams.
After completing his master’s degree at Sharif University of Technology, one of Iran’s top schools, Esfahani got into the prestigious PhD engineering program at the University of Waterloo.
The pair had lost touch for years before they ran into each other at a bus stop in Waterloo, he said.
“It was like there was never distance between us for the past few years,” Mohamadizadeh said. ”He remembered all the teachers and their catchprhasese from middle school that I could not stop myself laughing.”
Esfahani had “so many sweet plans for his love life,” he said, and left Canada on Dec. 10 to prepare for his wedding over the holidays. After the wedding, his wife remained in Iran.
“She was about to join him in Feburary and start a new life here in Canada with Mansour. He never said goodbye.”
In Edmonton, a handful of students gathered in a room at the University of Alberta set aside for grief counselling. The school lost 10 people in the crash, including two professors and a number of graduate students.
Asal Andarzipour, president of the university’s Iranian Students Association, said she wanted to be with others who are grieving.
“Silence is helpful,” she said outside the room. “It means a lot to us to hear that all of the universities across Canada are uniting to take this moment.”
Students at the University of Toronto fell silent at 1 p.m. to remember eight people with ties to the school, including six students.
About 100 students stood to mark the moment in one first-year computer science class as they stared at the names of the eight crash victims projected on a screen at the front of the room.
The school also announced Wednesday the creation of a scholarship fund for international students from Iran, or students of any background pursuing Iranian studies.
The Canadian Press