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  • On the last day of summer camp, I’m hugging my friend Abe and telling him how proud I am of him. All the younger campers look up to Abe, who has easily captured their hearts with his charisma and natural leadership skills. Abe can always be depended upon to stand for doing the right thing even when under pressure and to be an amazing role model. He was the leader of the pack and you wouldn’t find a soul who didn’t genuinely love this guy. Abe is a graduating camper and we can all be certain of what an amazing counselor he will be next year at our leadership camp for Iranian-Americans.
    About one month ago, I was driving away from my dentist after a small procedure that had rendered the lower right side of my face numb and immobile. While waiting at an intersection, I click on a link to some article that my friend has texted me. It’s about some plane crash that killed a bunch of students at Case Western Reserve University. Four students went on a nighttime flight piloted by a sophomore in a small Cessna plane which crashes shortly after taking off, killing all four passengers. I think about Abe, a freshman at Case who just had his first day of class there, but don’t really understand the context of my friend sending me this article. My eyes wander to the bottom of the article is a list of the names of the students killed, and third on the list is the name Abraham Pishevar, 18, from Rockville, Maryland. I felt like I had just won some sinister lottery just because of the sheer chance of this being possible. As I descend into confusion, trying to grasp these painful claims as truth, I struggle to understand how or why Abe, who I had talked to just a few days before, was in a plane to begin with, that ended up crashing. More than anything, the feeling of numbness in my face has been overtaken and nullified, by the numbing pain that is flooding every limb of my body.
    How could he be dead? Abe was literally larger than life. An exceptionally gifted but humble wrestler, he was muscular and large, but upon getting to know him you’d realize that he was a gentle giant; a man who had nothing but kindness and love for everybody in his life. His smile, which you’d see often, stretched all the way across his face, pushing his eyes into tiny squints while possessing the incredible power of always making you feel better. And a plane crash? You’re more likely to die in a car crash than to find yourself in a plane crash. It was so hard to grasp; after all, denial is a major initial stage of grief.
    Our close-knit community found itself thrown into its darkest days yet. Losing Abe in such a random freak accident was incredibly devastating, especially for his mother, Zahra. She raised Abe, her only son as a single mother who was always known for her motherly dedication and sacrifice. Witnessing a mother burying her only child was truly horrifying; every moment we thought we’d wake up from this nightmare. Shockingly, we didn’t.
    The day after Abe’s funeral, we planned a vigil where we asked everybody to wear white in celebration of his life. We wrote notes, tied them to balloons, and released them into the sky from the edge of a large field. But a heavy rainstorm proved to be a minor obstacle in our efforts. The rain drops clung to the balloons and some of them managed to push upwards into the sky, some remained suspended in the air, and some sank to the ground. It was mesmerizingly beautiful.
    Everyone, in drenched white clothes, ran elatedly into the field and grabbed the balloons on the ground, shook the water off and released them once again into the sky. Perhaps it was Abe’s final prank on us. They all rose high into the sky as the rain began to fade to a drizzle. We smiled, laughed, held hands and embraced Zahra, who found the most comfort in the arms of those whose lives were so touched by Abe’s. And maybe for the first time, we remembered that happiness still exists…
    It’s April 2014, and on a clear sunny day, a car pulls up to the side entrance of the student union. Abe and his mother, who greets us with her usual enthusiastic warmth, emerge. Zahra tells us to have fun and thanks us in advance for showing Abe around campus for a tour. She drives away as we walk away with Abe, who is currently struggling to decide whether to attend the University of Maryland or Case Western.
    Five months later and this scene is constantly replaying in my head like a video loop on repeat. My head is trying to salvage this relic of another life, an older era of the past before the huge earthquake that brought the walls of our lives crumbling to dust. Every day I continue to wait for a future in which we can look back at Abe’s passing with fond smiles instead of bitter tears. That day, I hope, will come soon.
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