The untimely deaths of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha in February 2015 shook the Carolina and N.C. State campuses, resulting in gatherings at both universities to mourn.
But one year later, it was a day to look at the light — not the darkness.
“Today is a very sad day,” said Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor’s and Razan’s father. “But instead of mourning and being sad, we decided a long time ago to put a positive spin on this and make it their legacy that we celebrate.”
Throughout Wednesday, memorials were held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University to pay tribute to the three students’ legacies of kindness and service to others. The Barakat and Abu-Salha families were joined by hundreds at the UNC School of Dentistry and then at a candlelight vigil on the N.C. State campus.
“I would have learned so much from them,” Chancellor Carol L. Folt said at the vigil. “I am learning from them, and their families, some of the most profound lessons in life: lessons about love, about service, about light. From the deepest bottom of my heart, I’m grateful that they walked the Earth with us.
“We are here today celebrating their inspiration. I was changed and moved by that tragedy. But even more so, I’ve been moved to learn from so many people how to take their legacy through their work and put it into action.”
Barakat, a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, and Yusor Abu-Salha, who would have entered the Dental School this past fall, as well as her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, an undergraduate student at N.C. State, were the three victims of a fatal shooting Feb. 10, 2015 in their Chapel Hill apartment.
“Although February 10, 2015 was a very, very dark day, the bright lights of Deah, Yusor and Razan continue to shine,” said N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson.
Following the deaths, the Carolina community — led by the School of Dentistry students — rallied around the legacy left behind and planned community service projects to help the causes Barakat had supported.
“Our school community and our University all pulled more closely together,” said Jane Weintraub, dean of the School of Dentistry. “We all resolved to be kinder, more patient, more understanding, and to give back more often.
“Our school adopted the mantra to ‘Live like Deah.’ These attributes described Yusor and Razan as well. And while the world is dimmer without them, we have all worked toward shining more light into the shadows in their absence.”
At the Carolina memorial service, Weintraub unveiled two shadowboxes containing white coats. One coat was embroidered with “Deah Barakat” and the other “Yusor Abu-Salha”. They will be displayed at the School of Dentistry.
“How can we best honor these young lives?” Carolina Provost James W. Dean, Jr., asked. “I think that the answer is for each one of us to be a little better in our own lives and for each of us to do a little more here at UNC, across North Carolina, across this country and really around the world for other people. This is what these three amazing individuals did, and I believe this is how we can best honor them.”