I had the privilege of attending the memorial service organised by Oxford College of Emory University on August 28, 2016 to honour the memory of my beloved niece, Abinta Kabir and one of her best friends, Faraaz Hossain. Both were brutally slain in the recent terrorist attacks at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We were given an opportunity to remember both of them as unique human beings and not just as victims. The memorial focused on the story of two souls who were intertwined in their aspirations to be good human beings.
Dean Douglas A. Hicks described them as, "warm, bright, compassionate, energetic young people who made Emory's Oxford College's community better and no words could describe the loss and anger felt by the community for depriving these two people of their limitless possibilities."
Abinta’s professor Molly McGehee described her as a fierce young woman who was always driven to achieve academic excellence. “She had eyes that sparkled and a smile that radiated in her classroom and beyond. She embodied the light of goodness and innocence"
Gabriella Nordlund had known Abinta since kindergarten and was also a classmate at Oxford College. Abinta's mother, Ruba Ahmed, stood next to her at the podium and provided the strength and courage to continue her speech through her tears. She recounted personal stories of their close bond and vowed to finish college and carry out all of the dreams they shared together on her behalf.
Lenita O'Rouke, her elementary school teacher from Florida, described Abinta as a hard worker who believed that if anything was too difficult to achieve, it only meant that one had to work harder. She described a young girl who was always willing to help everyone. She remembered Abinta as an advocate for peace and love and she urged everyone to carry on that message.
The next phase of the memorial focused on Faraaz. Abinta had mentioned Faraaz to me when we were together in New York in October 2015. We were giggling over the realities of college life and the importance of having lifelong friends. She mentioned how Faraaz was helping her adjust to college life. Never in my worst nightmares could I have foreseen the tragedy that awaited both of our families in 2016.
Valerie Molyneaux, Faraaz's advisor at Goizueta Business School described him as a student who took his responsibilities within his team very seriously and was starting to make preparations to study abroad. She concluded by stating that he had fulfilled his dream till the end with honour and dignity.
Zanir Malani, his roommate and friend, described Faraaz as having "un-breakable belief in doing what was right." He read a letter that was sent by Faraaz’s mother and brother. His cousin Uzair Malani read a letter from Faraaz’s grandfather and grandmother. They described him as the light of their lives and expressed that his courage will forever make them proud.
The memorial moved to Senery Hall, where the campus bells rang 39 times to symbolize the short 19 years of life for Abinta and 20 more for Faraaz. Chaplin Lynn Pace asked us to hold in our hearts the incredible impact both Abinta and Faraaz left on the campus. Yellow and white flowers were placed on the steps to symbolise peace and harmony. Two red roses symbolising Abinta and Faraaz were present to remind us that they will never be forgotten.
Aaron Stoddard, the president of Oxford's Student Activities Committee praised the organizational skills, dedication, and determination displayed by both Abinta and Faraaz for the subcommittee they chaired. "You both will be missed," he said, as tears streamed down his face.
The closing speech was given by Emory University President-Elect Claire E. Sterk. She stated that, "Some things cannot be explained, some things are beyond our comprehension. Abinta and Faraaz crossed many borders in their short life. In their memory, let us take the love and emotion we feel around us out into the world. Let us cross borders with the courage they showed in their lives. Let us embrace the people we hold dear to us and make the most of the time we have together. Let us pass in the light that Abinta and Faraaz have left behind. In remembering them we remember what evokes our deepest humanity. May their memory sustain and guide us in this quest and lead us to that peace to which we are called."
After the ceremony, I sat down on the quad where I had hoped to see Abinta in her gown during her graduation day. I knew Abinta was determined to return to Bangladesh after her graduation. Her hard work was always driven by a dream and commitment to help those who were less fortunate in Bangladesh.
I was able to view some old photos and videos of Abinta’s from high school and college. In most of her high school photos, she is accompanied by Tarishi Jain smiling and making funny faces. Tarishi also lost her young life beside Abinta that tragic day. Faraaz is present in a lot of the college photos. These touching photos reminded me of the Three Musketeers- "One for all and All for one". These three brave souls stood by each other till the end. They are heroes who made a nation and the whole world proud. They showed us the power of true friendship and love. I know they are looking down on me from heaven, telling me "please do not cry about us Khalamoni, because we are together forever" As in life so shall it be in death...Our beloved Angels...