It is, one has to believe, exactly the kind of memorial these three wonderful young people who died tragically would have wanted.
Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, were the best and the brightest, no doubt. As evidenced by their desire to do good works, they also were among the kindest and gentlest.
Their deaths came, according to police, at the hands of an angry neighbor who also happened to possess an arsenal of firearms. The three were shot to death Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill.
Speculation has ensued over whether the slayings were related to the fact that the three victims were Muslim. That will be part of any investigation, and the truth of the motivation of these senseless killings will be known.
For its part, N.C. State has done the best it could do in the aftermath. The three were alumni of the university. Barakat was in the school of dentistry at UNC-Chapel Hill, and his wife, Yusor, was planning to enter there. Her sister was a sophomore in the College of Design at N.C. State.
A scholarship fund will be established to honor the three.
Chancellor Randy Woodson said it best: “Deah, Yusor and Razan exemplified the best of N.C. State and will forever serve as role models for our student body. Each was not only an outstanding student, but individually and as a family lived their lives bringing joy to others, helping those in need and making the world a better place.”
Yes, here is what they did: They worked in Durham and Raleigh to help feed the homeless. They were involved in building a multicultural and interfaith Habitat for Humanity home in Wake County. And they were trying to raise money to pay for a trip to Turkey to provide dental care for Syrian refugees. So far, the campaign has received nearly $500,000 in donations to help the Syrian-American Medical Society.
These three students were exceptional, to be sure. They were out of the ordinary. They were special. But it must be noted, as they surely would note, that many of their classmates and friends are likewise involved in their community, are generous in helping others and are more selfless than the stereotype image some people carry of college students as either self-absorbed in books or in good times. Most college students are far more.
It also should be said that these three were motivated as well by their faith. Those in this community who know devout Muslims understand the nature and depth of that faith, even if some others may not or choose not to. But it’s clear that these young people followed the spirit of generosity to others that is part of that faith.
In the wake of this tragedy, communities of all faiths should come together to better understand one another. And they all understand, surely, no matter their differences in philosophy, the grief that the families of these young people are experiencing now. It is a deep, everlasting grief that is felt in all those who lose their loved ones far before their time, especially when so much hard work lay behind and so much promise lay ahead.
The endowment for the scholarship at N.C. State will be called “Our Three Winners,” a name that reflects all that promise. The university is starting the endowment with a $60,000 gift and will attempt to build it.
That deserving young people who might not otherwise be able to attend college will realize their own promise is the greatest memorial the university could establish and the greatest legacy these three young achievers could have.