WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: Celebrating the Lives of Our Three Winners and Our Beloved Dean Smith


In light of this emotionally taxing and shocking week, I felt that it would be unfit to pretend that today is just another Friday for another health or fitness article typical of the Tar Heel Tone Up. Instead, I’d like to write about some things that we have all felt and learned this week from the loss of four members of the Carolina community.
As we are all already far too aware, three members of the Carolina and greater Triangle community were killed in Chapel Hill this week on Tuesday night. Deah Shaddy Barakat, a UNC dental student, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, a recent graduate of NC State University and an incoming UNC dental student, and Yusor’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a sophomore design student at NC State, were the victims of the terrible crime.
In all seriousness, and I promise that this is relevant, one of my favorite quotes comes from the book “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” In his address to the students of Hogwarts, Albus Dumbledore says: “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” While this certainly is one of the darkest of times for our community, and especially for the close friends and family of the victims, there have been so many who have had the strength to find and share happiness and light in the midst of this heavy darkness we face. I admire their fortitude, courage, and faith. Following are some of the words that have inspired us the most:

“I think we would all encourage people to not have those feelings [about the crime] pushing toward hate but toward cooperation and understanding and love. That’s really what Deah and Yusor and Razan would have wanted.”
-Maryam Ahmed, friend of Yusor and Razan Abu-Salha.
“ All of us belong to God, and to Him we will return.”
-Omar Rezk, friend of Deah, quoting a verse (Surat Al-Baqarah 2:156) often said in the Muslim community when someone passes.
[About Deah]: “He was a lovely, compassionate human being. Every time he saw me, he gave me a hug and a smile. He knew I was Jewish; I knew he was Muslim. It didn’t matter.”
-Jay Mosesson, Physical Therapist, UNC Hospital Spine Center
 “Do not fight fire with fire. Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.”…
“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.”…
“Life is a bridge. You odn’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.”
-Farris Barakat, Deah Barakat’s older brother at Wednesdays’ vigil.
“They loved each other—and not in the classic, ‘That’s a little much, get a room’ sense. They just made the other person light up. They were great together. The combination of them was even better than the things you heard about them separately.”
-Abdul Salem, longtime friend of Deah

Amidst all of the pain of this incomprehensible tragedy, it may seem almost strange to speak about the fact that we lost not three, but four members of our Carolina and world community this week. On Saturday night, the beloved Dean Smith, former UNC men’s basketball head coach from 1960-1997, passed away in his home, surrounded by his family of his wife and five children.

Photo courtesy of UNC Student, Victor Sanchez.
The circumstances of their deaths are so different, it almost seems wrong to sum them into one group of loss. Deah, Yusor, and Razan were young, healthy students. They were on promising and fast-paced journeys to success and adventure, and Deah and Yusor were newly married. Their lives were taken swiftly and harshly, without warning and without answers. Dean Smith, on the other hand, lived a long life full of countless notable successes. Not only was he one of the most known and loved basketball coaches in the country, but he was also a civil rights activist and great teacher. In a statement about Dean Smith’s passing, President Obama pointed out that Dean Smith graduated 96% of this players, taught them to point at the person who had passed them the ball when they made a basket, and showed us all how to fight a terrible illness with “courage and dignity.”
With such different circumstances of death, why do I speak of the deaths of Deah, Yusor, Razan, and Dean Smith together?
I do this because the loss of these individuals revealed the character and unity of the Triangle community this week in a way that amazed me. Between us Tarheels here at UNC, those wolves at NC State, and those Demon Deacons eight miles away, we talk a lot of smack about each other. In the events of this week, however, we came together when it really mattered. Students and community members celebrated the life of Dean Smith down at the Dean Dome on Sunday night and Coach K even wore a Carolina Blue tie to his funeral, for heaven’s sake. I never thought I would say it, but that man earned some major respect points from me for doing that. On Wednesday night, thousands of students and community members filled the pit and the quad to remember Deah, Yusor, and Razan. Only one of the three was a student here, and most people outside of the dental school never had a chance to meet him, but at the vigil, it felt like they were all UNC students that we had lost. There were students from all three Triangle schools here, standing together to mourn our collective loss and to realize and remember that it doesn’t matter what shade of blue (or red) we wear in times like these, but it matters that we are all people and that the lives of every single kind of person matter equally.
Surely this has been a week of so much loss, but I have witnessed so much strength and beauty in it as well. May we remember the lives of Deah, Yusor, Razan, and Dean Smith as examples for our own, and may we all remember and learn to love other despite any differences we may have. Life isn’t easy and life isn’t fair and there are a lot of things about it that I don’t understand, but I do know that it is still a beautiful life.
The quotes used in this blog came from the individuals who spoke at the vigil held on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, February 11, at 6:30pm. Additional quotes came from articles featured in The Daily Tar Heel on Thursday, February 12, 2015. Specifically, quotes were pulled from the following articles:
Deah: “People really loved the guy.” Written by Zoe Shaver, Assistant City Editor.
“He beat me home.” Written by Claire Nielsen, Assistant City Editor.
“A Triple Tragedy.” Written by Holly West, City Editor.

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