More than 350 students from UNC-Chapel Hill’s dental school will kick off an annual day of service Thursday in memory of their fallen classmate and his wife.
The students have established an annual event they’re calling “DEAH DAY,” which stands for Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor. Each year, classes and clinics will be canceled so that students can volunteer in the Triangle to pay tribute to the memory of Deah Barakat, who was a UNC dental student, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, who was about to enroll at the school.
Barakat, his wife and sister-in-law, N.C. State student Razan Abu-Salha, were shot and killed in a Chapel Hill apartment in February. The slayings shocked two universities and made international headlines, with many people labeling the shootings a hate crime. The students were Muslim. Their neighbor, Craig Hicks, awaits trial on murder charges.
DEAH DAY was conceived and planned by students who wanted to do something lasting to remember their classmate. It is supported by the Dental Foundation of North Carolina.
“Deah and Yusor were aspiring dentists and volunteered regularly within their communities,” Kaushal Gandhi, who like Barakat is a member of the Class of 2017, said in a statement. “All three would have gone on to have illustrious careers and continue their community outreach and spirit of service locally and internationally. Their legacy is that of learning, service, humanity, faith and compassion. DEAH DAY is the perfect way to pay tribute to their lives.”
On Thursday, students will volunteer for the morning at various sites in the Triangle. In the afternoon, they will gather for a reception at the school to honor Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha, who had been married just a few weeks at the time of their deaths.
The couple had volunteered to feed the homeless in the Triangle and planned to travel to Turkey this summer to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees.