'Their families were watching': Edmonton crash memorial viewed in Iran
EDMONTON -- On Sunday, thousands of people united to remember those who lost their lives in last week's Tehran plane crash. Now members of Edmonton's Iranian community say the event has given those grieving a boost.
The event, held at the University of Alberta, was at capacity with 2,300 people in attendance, and hundreds more waited outside of the venue to show their support.
A surprise last-minute addition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flew in to offer his condolences at the event.
"This was truly a Canadian tragedy. All Canadians are mourning your loss," said Trudeau.
The memorial was a touching tribute to the13 Edmontonians killed when Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot out of the sky by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles near Tehran on Jan. 8, according to a friend of two of the victims. The Iranian government has admitted that the surface-to-air missile was deployed mistakenly.
"I myself feel a little better after yesterday's ceremony," said Amir Fourouzandeh, who gave a eulogy for his late friends Pouneh Gorji and Arash Pourzarabi.
The couple had just married Jan. 1 and was returning to Edmonton to begin their new life as spouses.
"They were planning to have a small ceremony when they got back here in Edmonton. Today could've been that day," Fourouzandeh told the crowd Sunday. "We would've gathered to celebrate their love instead of mourning their loss."
The impact of the memorial wasn't just felt in Alberta's capital.
Despite state-controlled social media, people in Iran were also watching — including members of the deceased passengers' families.
"Their families were watching," said Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton. "I can tell you every Iranian listened and heard what Mr. Justin Trudeau said."
His message that Canadians "will not rest until there are answers" is now being shared abroad as Iranians hold protests in reaction to their country's admission the plane was shot down.
Akbari said he's never seen the regime in Iran confess wrongdoing, so he's hopeful for change.
"What kind of human lets this happens and for three days, you deny it?" he asked.
Fourazendeh's focus is more narrow, saying he's just trying to get through each day.
"For me, I see our friends are gone and I'll never get to see them again, and that's all it is for me," he said.
Canadian air crash investigators are being given access to the wreckage site, and the Transportation Safety Board said it will push for answers for the families of the victims.
“We all want answers and sharing information is a cornerstone of trust,” said Kathy Fox, the head of the TSB. "The world deserves to know how and why events unfolded as they did.”
The crash killed 176 people including 57 Canadians.
With a report from CTV News Edmonton's Sarah Plowman.