They were just flying home.
Half a world away, they faced almost a full day in the air – from Tehran to Kyiv, Kyiv to Toronto, then on to London, Ont.
Instead, Western graduate students Ghazal Nourian, Hadis Hayatdavoudi, Milad Nahavandi and Sajedeh Saraeian, as well as Saraeian’s husband Mohammad Javad Mianji, lost their lives along with 171 others when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down just minutes after takeoff from Iran.
Western would later grant posthumous doctorates to all four Engineering and Science students and establish a graduate scholarship in their memory through donations.
They were more than names, more than students, researchers and friends – and Western was a focal point where the broader community could remember their lives and grieve their loss.
Through snapshots, music, poetry and stories they mourned what one friend called the loss of “a thousand hopes and glittering days.”
Hundreds signed books of condolence at tables where candles flickered on the students’ portraits during a vigil that took place the night of the crash.
After a memorial service at Alumni Hall a few days later, one Iranian-Canadian Londoner, through tears, proffered a plate of funeral halva and dates to strangers seated near him.
A gift of strength during mourning, he said, and a thank-you for remembering his people.
A memorial service at Western honoured the lives of students Ghazal Nourian, Hadis Hayatdavoudi, Milad Nahavandi and Sajedeh Saraiean.