Tribune News Service/ Raleigh News & Observer

Thousands Attend Emotional Vigil For Murdered North Carolina Students

Chapel Hill mourns the deaths of three students.

When the faces of Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, were shown on a screen during a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night on the University of North Carolina campus, the thousands gathered fell absolutely silent.

They had come together to mourn the three family members killed at an apartment near the Chapel Hill campus on Tuesday and to celebrate their lives. According to a report in the Daily Tarheel newspaper, the voices that broke the silence spoke of the charity and warmth of the three lives cut short by alleged shooter Craig Stephen Hicks.

Anadolu Agency

"Praise be to God. We say that in good and in bad, knowing that God is the most wise. We depend on God the wise in this time," Deah Shaddy Barakat's older brother, Farris Barakat, told attendees. Like many of the speakers, the paper said Farris focused on the good deeds and kind hearts of the three victims.

"These three individuals lived an amazing life," he said. "We lost three great citizens of this world and of this country... We are going to cry because we miss them. I don’t know what I’m going to do on Saturday mornings when it’s time for family breakfast." He also ended with an inspiring, hopeful thought for those torn by the grief that has struck the peace-loving college town.

Anadolu Agency

"Life is a bridge," he said. "You don’t want to build on the bridge; you want to build when you get there... They got to their destination. They are home. He beat me home."

Giving back was part of who they were

A friend of Razan's told the Tarheel that the 19-year-old architecture and environmental design student at N.C. State University was a hard worker who would often go from spending long hours in the design studio to handing out food to the homeless on the streets of downtown Raleigh on the weekends.

"Razan was a girl of many talents. She had a smile that could light a whole room, and her compassion and strength showed us the importance of giving back," friend Yasmine Inaya said. Razan was also the designer for the local chapter of the United Muslim Relief charity and another friend said Razan was planning to start a resume-building workshop to help unemployed people find work.

Yusor, 21, was a volunteer with Project: Refugee Smiles, with which she traveled to Turkey to provide dental care to those in need. Friend Amira Ata told the paper that before Yusor left for her trip Ata's students collected toothbrushes and dental floss for the project.

And when Yusor -- who loved sweets -- returned, she brought cupcakes for all of Ata's students. "Even my students today — they were messaging me saying, 'We miss her so much already,'" Ata said.

Second-year UNC School of Dentistry student Deah, 23, was the founder of the Syrian Dental Relief program, which provided dental care to Syrian refugees. Close friend Maryam Ahmed said he was the kind of person who was all about doing good and helping others.

"He was one of those people that just had that fire, and he loved what he did. He loved it so much," she said.

More vigils planned all over the country

In addition to more local gatherings, a Facebook page has been set up to gather information on vigils around the country, including ones in California to Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Montreal, Ohio, Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin and Florida.

Funerals for all three were reportedly planned for Raleigh on Thursday (Feb. 12).