UNC, NCSU mark anniversary of Muslim students' deaths
Posted February 10
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University held ceremonies Wednesday to mark one year since the shooting deaths of three Muslim students.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were fatally shot Feb. 10, 2015, at the couple's condominium in Chapel Hill. A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder in their deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted.
"It has been really hard this past year, it goes without saying. Hearing from you all is important to our family," Barakat's sister, Suzanne Barakat, told people gathered at the UNC School of Dentistry.
Deah Barakat was a second-year dental student, and his wife was about to start her first year of studies there.
Dean Jane Weintraub said the UNC dental school has won the 2016 William J. Gies Award for Outstanding Vision by an Academic Dental Institution in recognition of "Deah Day," a community service day last fall among the dental students. White dental coats bearing Barakat's and Yusor Abu-Salha's names will be displayed along with the award in the school atrium, Weintraub said.
"It's my hope we will continue to heal as a community and as a family," she said.
At the time of their deaths, the couple was working on a project to provide dental care for Syrian refugees. Relatives, friends and classmates have continued that work in their honor.
"We've laughed with each other, we've cried with each other and we've worked together to make sure we keep Deah's, Yusor's and Razan's legacy alive," friend Kaushal Ghandi said. "I want to ask you all to remember the lives of these three individuals and follow their example of kindness and service."
At N.C. State, where Razan Abu-Salha was an undergraduate student, friends gathered Wednesday evening for a candle-lighting and prayer service to honor her and her sister and brother-in-law.
The girls' father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, said at the dental school ceremony that he hopes the tragedy will bring more understanding toward Muslim-Americans.
"We began to see the outpour of love and support of our community and faiths in our community," Abu-Salha said.
The families maintain that the shootings were a hate crime, but Chapel Hill police have said an ongoing dispute between Hicks and his neighbors prompted the shootings.
A third event Wednesday was held at Light House, a community center the families have created at 202 N. Tarboro St. in Raleigh at a home owned by Deah Barakat. The center holds a small-business incubator, provides after-school programs and counters what they call growing Islamophobia.
An interfaith food drive in honor of the slain students continues through Feb. 20 at the Islamic Center of Raleigh.