Deah Barakat once wrote a letter to his professor detailing his interest in orthodontics, but he was afraid of participating in class. But Barakat wasn’t afraid of failing — he was afraid his classwork would take away the time he wanted to dedicate to his community.
Members of the community devoted time Tuesday night to dedicate a house in memory of Barakat, a second-year UNC dental student, as well as his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha. Yusor was an N.C. State University graduate, and Razan was a sophomore at N.C. State.
The house will pay tribute to the impact the three had on their communities, instead of their deaths.
They were shot and killed by 46-year-old Craig Hicks in Feb. 10 at their apartment complex in Chapel Hill. Hicks was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder. The Durham County District Attorney’s Office intends to seek the death penalty for Hicks.
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County partnered with Our Three Winners House, the Islamic Association of Raleigh and OurThreeWinners.org to start construction on the project.
Project participants said the goal was to build an interfaith, community connection and building.
Imam Muamar Dahnoun, the fundraising coordinator at the Islamic Association of Raleigh, said people should never be isolated from their community.
“We should never live in our boxes. We should reach out to others,” Dahnoun said before reciting a prayer for the three shooting victims.
The house dedication also included a forum for family members and friends to recall stories about the deceased and their lasting impact.
Renee Revaz, Interfaith Build coordinator and Habitat Wake Advisory Board chairwoman, described the project as bringing people together to unite in a common goal that bridged all potential cultural and religious barriers.
“Projects like this help us learn from each other,” she said. “We are able to trust each other and open ourselves up to each other.”
Organizers of the event furthered the theme of fair and equal treatment through the donation of a Norman Rockwell print entitled “The Golden Rule.”
The painting, which now will reside in the home of Petrina McCoy — the beneficiary of the build — depicts people of different races, ethnicities and faiths standing together.
Along the bottom of the painting are the words “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
McCoy said she believes this rule sums up the best part of what it means to work through cultural boundaries.
“It is such a powerful rule if you really abide by it,” Revaz said.
“It allows us to work together and make changes despite our differences.”