The University of Windsor community is remembering five people killed in the January 2020 crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after its takeoff from Tehran.
Of the 176 passengers on board, 138 were en route to Canada. They included biology research assistant Samira Bashiri, engineering doctoral students Hamidreza Setareh Kokab and Pedram Jadidi. doctoral student Zahra Naghibi and Naghibi's spouse, Mohammad Abbaspour Ghadi, were also killed.
John Smithies spoke at the event, and said Bashiri and Kokab were like family to him.
"It was like we were all friends right from the beginning," he said.
"Like the perfect kids you didn't might not have."
The Smithies family hosted Bashiri and Kokab as Airbnb guests in their home after the two moved to Windsor in December 2018. The couple eventually moved out, but in September 2019, they moved back in as tenants.
Smithies said he had tried to convince them not to go back to Iran because of the tumultuous political climate at the time.
"I had said to Hamidreza, 'Perhaps it's not the right Christmas to go home,' but they had counted the cost, and they had together decided they will honour their parents and go home," he said
"We love them so much, and their love for each other and and for us, for our son."
Mahsa Rahimi said she had been friends with Bashiri since she was seven and they were "like two sisters."
She said they had both dreamed of coming to Canada and starting a better life for their families.
Rahimi said one of the hardest parts of losing her friend, and all the others on board the flight that day, is she doesn't think the people those responsible have been held to account.
"They say it was a mistake, you know, and we just need the justice for them," she said.
The university said in a news release that counsellors will also be available to support those in need.