A year ago Wednesday, the three students were killed in a senseless act of violence. Craig Stephen Hicks is charged with shooting the victims in their home at the Finley Forest Condominiums, launching national concern about increasing violence and intolerance toward Muslim-Americans.
Hicks has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is facing the death penalty.
The police originally reported that Hicks was provoked over a parking dispute, but the victims’ families disagree.
“If this was over a parking dispute, then Rosa Parks was over a bus seat,” said Farris Barakat, brother of Deah.
Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, father of Yusor and Razan, concurred, saying he has seen the evidence but cannot discuss the facts of an open investigation.
But the discussion of the police investigation paled in comparison to the praise given to the lives of Deah, Yusor and Razan. The Day of Light focused on the lives and accomplishments of the deceased.
On the day of their deaths, Deah was 23, Yusor was 21 and Razan was 19. Deah was a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, and Yusor planned to enter the dental school in the fall of 2015. Deah and Yusor were newlyweds as well, and were married for six weeks before the end of their lives. Both were graduates of N.C. State. Razan was a sophomore at N.C. State.
Together, Deah and Yusor went to Turkey twice to help provide dental care to Syrian refugees. They were also involved in the construction of an interfaith home for Habitat for Humanity and providing food for the homeless in Durham.
Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha said they did it for the sake of God and faith — nothing else.
The hour-long vigil included a traditional call to prayer followed by guest speakers including the imam of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, Mohamed AbuTaleb, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt and Muslim Student Association of N.C. State President Mahmoud Tohmaz.
“I have learned so much from them and their families,” Folt said. “And I think I can say from the deepest part of my heart, I am grateful that they have walked this earth with us.”
Uniform from all the speakers at the vigil was a call for religious tolerance and an end to bigotry. Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha spoke of the growth of xenophobia towards the “Muslim way of life.”
“America has a rainbow of ways of life. There is an Irish way of life, a black American way of life, a Native Indian way of life, an Indian-American way of life, a Jewish way of life and a Muslim way of life,” he said.
Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha asked the audience to pray for his family, and to help his family by going to to donate to the endowment originally started by Deah. Originally meant to raise $20,000 to send toothbrushes to Syrian refugees, the endowment has raised $700,000 since Deah’s death.
Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha hopes to raise $5 million within a few years to make scholarships and help all those in need.