We are never alone in grief
Thoughts from a broken heart on the Iranian plane crash memorial
By Hammad Ali
With some shame I have to admit, when I first heard about the plane crash in Tehran, it did not hit me about what it meant. I could argue that the world is so messed up that we are ever more desensitized to loss, but that does not absolve me of apathy. I think it is important to concede that, so that I can do better.
Soon, however, the impact of this tragedy hit too close to home for my comfort. My professor mentioned offhand in class that some of his friends were on that flight. A passing mention, yet enough to betray the pain he was in. Enough to make me remember all my wonderful Iranian coworkers and friends. To make me at once pray that they had not lost someone, and dread having to see them, to ask them how things are back home.
In the days that followed, much was discussed in the news about what happened, why it happened, who was at fault. And I remember silently screaming, what does it matter? Over a hundred people, in the prime of their lives, many of them starting a whole new life in Canada, are gone. They will never reach Canada. They will never make friends in this wonderful country, will never sit in lectures, will never start a new job. Nothing will bring them back.
When I heard about the memorial service, I asked my friend Mohammad if I could attend with him. I felt, somehow, an intruder on his grief. But he took me along. I am grateful that he did.
In that one hour, I heard about someone who had a friend on that flight. A friend whose last message said “I will text you when I am in Kiev.” That text never came. His friend, who could someday have been my friend in this new land, never reached Kiev.
I saw pictures of faces. Every single face had a smile on it. Like my coworkers do when I open the office door each morning. Like my friends do when we pass each other in the hallway, nodding, saying “salam” to each other. Wishing peace to each other every day. Yet somehow, peace eludes us.
I have no words of consolation for the people of Iran. For those who were looking forward to meeting a friend at the airport, in a flight that never came. For the families that said bye to a child, a sibling, wishing them a safe journey and a wonderful time in Canada. After the service, all I could do was hug my friends tight, hoping that my firm hold on them told them I cannot bear the thought of losing them. As my friend Ashkan read so eloquently in the words of the Persian poet Saadi Shirazi:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
My brave friends from Iran, you are not alone in this grief. You will never be alone. While we cannot fathom your pain, we mourn with you. We stand with you in solidarity. And I am glad that I have met so many of you, shared a laugh with you. May the days ahead finally usher in that peace and joy we all long for. Salam to you, my friends.