The Ukrainian jet that crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran's airport Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board, was carrying entire families, award-winning scientists, university students, and a young married couple who had traveled back to Iran for their wedding.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 went down in a field just hours after Iran fired two dozen missiles at Iraq military bases that house US troops, immediately sparking outcry and speculation that the jet might have been caught up in the attack.
On Thursday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had received evidence indicating that "the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile" and vowed this his government "will not rest" until it gets answers.
Sixty-three Canadian nationals were among those who died in the crash, and 138 passengers were headed to Canada, making it the country's worst aviation disaster in 35 years, the Guardian reported.
Gathering at vigils held at local churches and universities — and sharing photos and tributes online — friends, family, and colleagues of the passengers are honoring the victims. Canada's university community was especially hit hard; 20 schools across the country reported that they lost distinguished faculty members, longtime professors, talented PhD candidates, and incoming first-year students.
On Thursday, Hamed Esmaeilion had to call his daughter's school and tell them that his 9-year-old, Reera, would "be absent forever."
"She was an amazing girl and I have to talk about her," the father said in an interview with journalist Negar Mortazavi. "And my wife too."
He and his wife, Parisa Eghbalian, are dentists who immigrated to Canada almost 10 years ago for a more "peaceful life," he told the Globe and Mail.
"It was not fair what happened," Esmaeilion said in an emotional interview with the CBC. "They were, like, ordinary people. They had ordinary wishes, ordinary hopes."
Parisa and Reera Eghbalian left their home in Ontario on Christmas, right after opening presents, to go visit family in Iran for the first time in two years.
"When you come from the Middle East, that can be a little difficult. When you come here, you don't leave your past — your past comes with you and your land comes with you," Esmaeilion said. "I was thinking we are away from all the tension, and at the very moment you think you are free and in peace, you just get a punch like that in your face."
Sahar Haghjoo and her 8-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, snapped this selfie right before takeoff, Global News reporter Caryn Lieberman shared.
The 37-year-old worked at the YWCA in Toronto for five years, where she helped immigrant and refugee women settle into the community, the Guardian reported.
The pair had been visiting family in Iran for the past few weeks. Her husband had returned home to Toronto early; he was supposed to pick up his wife and only child at the Pearson airport on Wednesday night, friends told the Globe and Mail.
Students across Canada are reeling as presidents of their schools confirm the names of their peers and professors who died in the crash.
Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gourji, both graduate students studying computer science at the University of Alberta, were coming back to Edmonton after celebrating their wedding in Iran. The western Canadian city was home to at least 30 of the victims.
The couple married on New Year's Day. Footage from the ceremony on Twitter shows them walking into a brightly lit, crowded room, where they were met with cheers and clicking cameras. They were on the plane with four members of their wedding party, Reza Akbari, the president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, told Reuters.
"When you go from top to the bottom, it's hard to believe — all these wonderful people ... these people who really were actually impactful in our community, they're not among us anymore. And in one incident all of them are gone," Akbari said in an interview with the CBC.
Also among the victims were Mahdieh Ghassemi, 38, and her two children, Arsam Niazi, 11, and Arnica Niazi, 8.
Ghassemi was an award-winning architect and a loving mother who'd moved from Tehran to Toronto 10 years ago.
Her close friend from university, Negar Khalili, told BuzzFeed News that Ghassemi was "amazing."
Ghassemi worked exceptionally hard to build the life she had, Khalili said.
"She got married and came to Canada 10 years ago, and then because of her kids, she stopped working," Khalili said. "Then after a while, she got back to work, got hired, and she started the process of getting her [architectural] license. While she was working, parenting, and all that, she was studying for the exam and got the license."
Just days before she died, Ghassemi had won an award for her design of a Tim Hortons location, according to the Globe and Mail.
Her boss, Nitin Malhotra, told Global News CA all the employees of the firm were devastated by her loss.
"She was really family-oriented," Khalili said. "Her first responsibility was the kids, and she would do everything — everything — for her kids."
Mohammad Asadi Lari is being remembered as an "incredible human" who spent his life advocating for peace, global health, and equal, inclusive educational opportunities for young students.
Along with cofounding and managing a STEM fellowship, the 23-year-old led and advised youth engagement activities and initiatives for a spate of Canadian organizations, including the Red Cross, according to his biographies and a tribute by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.
Last February, he gave a TED Talk imploring youth to think globally but act locally.
His sister, Zeynab Asadi Lari, was also on the plane. The siblings were students at the University of Toronto, which said six of its students died in the crash.
"He created a legacy as a brilliant scientist, compassionate clinician & engaged citizen. In his honour, be kind today," the school said of Mohammad Asadi Lari.
On Thursday, the university hosted a vigil to honor the students and other victims of the crash, joining 19 other schools whose beloved professors, PhD candidates, engineering scholars, and aspiring scientists died.
The University of Alberta said 10 members of its community died in the crash, including revered researchers and a recent graduate.
"These individuals were integral to the intellectual and social fabric of our university and the broader community," David Turpin, the school's president, said in a statement. "So many Canadian universities have also lost students, faculty, staff, and alumni in this tragedy, and we share in their sorrow."
Mojgan Daneshmand, a distinguished scientist and engineering professor, and her husband, Pedram Mousavi, who also taught engineering at the university, were on the plane with their two daughters, Daria and Dorina.
Dorina, 9, was "fiercely intelligent," her soccer coach, Maryam Hejazi, said at a news conference.
In 2016, Daneshmand won an award for her contributions to the field of microwave engineering and for being a leader for women in the field. Her husband, also an award-winning engineer, created an invaluable sense of community in the department and guided younger students.
"They were such sweet people. They were such kind people," Hossein Saghlatoon, a family friend who studied under Mousavi, told reporters on Thursday. "In the whole world, whomever is working in this field, they know them. They're famous people. There is a void space that I cannot imagine anyone can fill."