A memorial was held in Winnipeg Tuesday evening to honour a young life that was cut tragically short in the crash of a passenger plane in Iran earlier this month.
About 150 students, staff, parents and community members came together to share memories of Anisa Sadeghi,10, at Henry G. Izatt Middle School in Winnipeg’s Whyte Ridge neighbourhood.
Anisa was one of the 176 people on board Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 when it was shot down just outside Tehran by an Iranian missile on Jan. 8.
The girl’s parents, Mohammad Mahdi Sadeghi and Bahareh Hajesfandiari, also died in the crash.
“To see how that entire community rallied around the school and around her memory is heartwarming,” said Ted Fransen, superintendent of the Pembina Trails School Division.
“It was a beautiful evening.”
Students at the school created a rainbow butterfly poster with Anisa’s name and other pieces of art to help express their feelings.
A volunteer choir at the school sang Over the Rainbow, which Fransen said was a particularly emotional moment.
“You imagine all the things that you’ve heard about Anisa, the free spirit that she is. The butterfly bulletin board was there as they sang the song,” he said.
“I think there was a sense of optimism as well, that this is not the end, this is a part of life.… [The] rainbow is a sign of hope, and it’s a great message for students to be involved in that kind of experience.”
‘It is not typical that we bury our children’
Anisa was a relatively new student at the school, joining the Grade 5 class in September, Fransen said.
The school’s principal and the girl’s teachers spoke at a come-and-go tea in the school’s library, sharing students’ memories of their classmate.
“Just overwhelmingly warm, heartfelt comments, like ‘one of the friendliest girls I’ve ever met, always a friend, not cliquish, kind, ever-smiling,'” said Fransen.
The event was held to help the community with the grieving process and to honour Anisa, but also to talk about what happened.
“Understandably it was sombre. This community is grieving and our adults are helping students grieve, but you know, what so often happens is our young people are the ones that turn around and help us.”
Fransen said staff at the school have sought help in trying to find age-appropriate ways to talk about the tragedy with students.
“It is not typical that we bury our children,” Fransen said.
The school’s principal spoke to students about grief and asked them to be kind to one another.
“One of the beautiful things that the principal mentioned was how he had encouraged all 650 students at [the school] to be mindful, and on the lookout for students and staff who appear to be struggling with grief or the emotions in any given moment,” Fransen said.
Guests were encouraged to write in a memory book that will be given to the student’s family.
The memorial, which ran from 6 until 7:30, was also attended by Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and the area’s city councillor, Janice Lukes.
Fransen said another similar event will likely be held for a second Pembina Trails student who was also killed in the plane crash.
Noojan Sadr, 11, was on the plane with his mother, Farzaneh Naderi. Abolfazl Sadr, Naderi’s husband and Noojan’s father, is in Tehran making funeral arrangements.
Fransen said a memorial for the Chancellor School student will be held at a later date.