Last Tuesday, the news of the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19 shocked their North Carolina community. Almost instantly, the event created a ripple effect of grief and pain across the globe.
People all over the world shared the news over Twitter and created hashtags to bring the news front and center, propelling the media to slowly follow suit. Yet, I felt that a hashtag or a tweet by itself would not be enough to share my grief for these innocent souls.
Without even knowing Deah, Yusor and Razan personally, I found myself aching to pay my respects.
With fate being on my side, the Muslim Student Association (MSA) decided to host a vigil to commemorate these students on a day and at a time that I would be able to attend.
If you think about it, going to a stranger’s vigil seems strange. However, I found myself nodding in agreement when one of the speakers read poetry that described these deaths as though our own siblings were slain.
I walked into the vigil knowing so much about Deah, Yusor and Razan. I read their tweets, watched their Vines and scrolled through their Tumblrs. I saw their photos over and over and read about their charity work and thought to myself, “I can’t decide what’s bigger—their smiles or their hearts.”
Through bittersweet social media, I was able to see these three great people as my own siblings. Siblings I would be proud of. The vigil echoed what I saw on social media and much more.
I learned that Deah and Yusor just got married a month ago. I learned about how he was a Stephen Curry fan and how he was raising money for dental care for refugee victims of the Syrian crisis. I learned that Yusor declared America as her home and was proud of it. I learned about how Razan was “kinda dorky” and was studying architecture and environmental design at North Carolina State University.
The vigil reminded me of all these facts and how lucky any one of us would have been to be in their presence. The presider, Sister Sanaa, reminded the attendees of how we were not only Deah, Yusor and Razan, but that we were also the Egyptian Coptic Christians that were murdered, the children of Peshawar, Pakistan who were robbed of their lives and so many other victims of inhumane acts around the world.
And I was not alone in feeling the pain of loss for these three students, or the loss of the people who have been killed around the world. The SAC auditorium had quietly filled up, each attendee standing, expressing and experiencing the event.
There were so many people. There were MSA members, fraternity brothers, professors, parents, young children and others. Students and faculty from all different backgrounds went out of their way on a Tuesday night to pay their respects and condemn the violence.
The tears I held back through the program did not blind me from noticing the diversity of the audience in the room.
My friends who came with me to attend the event were not Muslim and did not know these victims.
They just came to pay their respects.
To see them along with so many others mourn these deaths made my heart swell with so many emotions and reminded me that the Stony Brook University community is something to be proud of.
When I left the auditorium and walked back to my car, some of the closing song’s lyrics remained in my head:
“We had joy, we had fun,
We had seasons in the sun,
But the hills that we climbed were just seasons
Out of time.”
Rest in peace Deah, Yusor and Razan. Rest in peace my siblings.