In this devastating personal essay, Iranian Canadian activist and author Hamed Esmaeilion remembers his wife Parisa and daughter Reera, who died in Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 in January 2020. The plane, which took off from Tehran and was meant to stop over in Kyiv, was shot down minutes later by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Esmaeilion tells the beautiful story of how he and Parisa met — at dentistry school in Iran’s University of Tabriz in the mid-1990s — and how they came of age and fell in love while living under an oppressive fundamentalist regime. After having Reera, they moved to Toronto in 2010 to live a new life. This is a powerful and moving piece about love, loss, and looking for justice.

I fell into the arms of our mothers and Parisa’s sister. Already, DNA from Parisa’s grandparents had been used to identify her body; my parents’ DNA was used to identify Reera’s. That night, in my mother-in-law’s home, I imagined my wife and daughter packing their suitcases, adjusting items to make room for Reera’s new books and dolls. Sometime between their departure from this room and my arrival, their lives had ended and, in effect, so had mine.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.