Thousands from Edmonton, the city’s local Iranian community, and across the province gathered on Sunday to remember the 13 Edmontonians who died when their plane was struck down by an Iranian missile.
“They were problem solvers, innovators, aspiring entrepreneurs and community leaders, both on our campuses – and off,” University of Alberta President David Turpin said during his remarks at the Saville Community Sports Centre.
All 176 people aboard Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 died in the crash earlier this week.
Thirteen victims were Edmonton residents, and many had ties to the post-secondary institution. The U of A jointly hosted the Sunday service with Edmonton’s Iranian community so that community members could pay their respects.
While thousands were expected to turn out, attendance far surpassed the venue’s 2,300-person capacity, so much so that the crowd flowed outside the gymnasium and into hallways and lobbies to watch as the event was livestreamed.
“I don't know any of them but they are Iranian. They are my family,” said one attendee, Mahnaz Maneshar.
Another, Khusraw Jamil, drove up from Calgary Sunday morning to attend. “I think it’s great there’s so many people coming in to support the community. I feel that’s what they need right now.”
'THEY WERE FLYING TOWARDS THEIR DREAMS OF A BETTER LIFE': FRIENDS REMEMBER VICTIMS
Among the 13 local residents killed in the crash were students, professors, and children.
“They were flying towards their dreams of a better life, of a better future, of a better world, and their dreams were shot down,” said Faded Elian, president of the U of A’s graduate student association.
Professors and married couple Pedram Mousavi and Mojgan Daneshmand, as well as their teenage daughters Dorina and Daria, are being remembered as optimistic and hopeful.
“They were always there to help and (lend) a hand. Full of energy and joy,” commented friend Masoud Ardakani.
Dorina’s teacher, Nastaran Amirsayafi, added, “I met them every week. I cannot believe they’re gone. They don’t come anymore. I cannot believe Dorina is gone forever.”
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson spoke of the shared grief being felt by the Iranian and Edmonton communities: “I share in your pain and your sadness.”
“The very fact that this gathering is overflowing its capacity, itself, lifts our spirits and speaks to who we are as Edmontonians… I couldn’t be prouder of our city, and of this turnout, and most of all, how Edmontonians have responded to this tragedy all week,” Iveson addressed the crowd.
“In a community like this, each and every Edmontonians is but one degree of separation from each other. We share the same streets, the same shops, the same workplaces, the same recreation centres, the same schools. And so it hits us because we can easily conceive of how we might be connected to these people that are suddenly gone – even if we never had the pleasure of knowing them directly. And so we are all here: friends of friends.”
TRUDEAU VOWS 'JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY'
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined local dignitaries in offering his condolences to Alberta and others across the country, putting words to what had been illustrated by the deluge of support.
“I am so deeply sorry for your loss,” Trudeau said.
“This was truly a Canadian tragedy. All Canadians are mourning your loss.”
He also promised the federal government would continue seeking responsibility from Iran, which has said a missile was “unintentionally” shot at the plane.
“We will not rest until there is justice and accountability,” the prime minister vowed.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he trusted Ottawa would use its full powers to get the victims’ families answers.
“Everyone shared the understanding that this city and our province suffered a terrible loss,” he said. “Whether their lives were taken by incompetence, by accident or by design, we know that everyone on board that plane were victims of a chain of actions rooted in the all-too-human failure to resolve conflicts peacefully.”
Canadian officials are travelling to Iran on Monday to “provide consular assistance to the families of the victims, including supporting repatriation of remains, to help identify victims and to assist in the investigation."
The Transportation Safety Board said Sunday it also plans to deploy a second team of investigators who specialize in aircraft recorder download and analysis.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Sarah Plowman, Nicole Weisberg, and The Canadian Press