“He was all about doing good,” said Deah’s lifelong friend Amir Jabr. “We’ve lost that good.”
Deah, who was shot and killed at the Finley Forest Condominium complex on Tuesday, was a second-year dental student at the UNC School of Dentistry and the founder of the fundraising effort Syrian Dental Relief, a group aimed at providing quality dental care to people in Syrian refugee camps.
“He was one of those people that just had that fire, and he loved what he did. He loved it so much,” said Maryam Ahmed, a close friend of Deah’s.
Jabr said Deah was strong-willed and driven to succeed in his dental career.
“He made a decision to go to dental school his junior year of undergrad, and by then it was kind of too late to apply,” Jabr said. “He did everything he had to do — he took night classes, he practiced the (Dental Admission Test) all by himself and he found a way to apply — just because he wanted it that bad.”
Asad Ahmad, a friend who played basketball with Deah, said he had a calming presence but that his passion was tangible.
“When you talked to him, his eyes were always really intense. He was a very fiery guy, but at the same time he always kept a level head,” he said. “People really loved the guy.”
Abdul Salem, who had been a friend of Deah’s for several years, said he was the type of person who was the first to know everyone’s big news, good or bad.
“I felt like he was the kind of guy who everybody felt like he was their best friend. He just had that effect on people,” he said. “He made everyone in the room feel like they were important.”
Deah was married to Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha on Dec. 27. Salem said the two were a textbook match.
“They loved each other — and not in the classic, ‘That’s a little much, get a room” sense. They just made the other person light up,” Salem said. “They were great together. The combination of them was even better than the great things you heard about them separately.”
As of Wednesday night, Deah’s nonprofit had raised more than $175,000 — or $155,000 more than its goal.
“Today, I’ve reached for my phone so many times to text him,” said Deah’s brother, Farris Barakat during a vigil in the Pit. “I just really wish he was here to see it all.”