Maryam Rashidi Ashtiani was put to rest in Calgary on Friday June 12. Her funeral and her memorial the next day were attended by members of the police force, the mayor of Calgary and many others who hadn’t even met her. Her story, a story of courage and determination has touched many across Canada and beyond.
At 18 years of age, Maryam wasn’t afraid of choosing a male-dominated career as an engineer. Her mother wrote on her memorial page that Maryam got her first job as she started university to make sure she didn’t pose a financial burden on her family, a rather uncommon move for a young female university student in Tehran. Her brother wrote that she was always the responsible one and she liked to lead by example.
A few months before she moved to Canada with her family, she called a former classmate and colleague in Calgary. She was told that the job market was slow and new immigrants were going through a difficult time. But she seemed completely unfazed by that information. She was a determined soul and if there was one thing she wasn’t afraid of, was hard work.
I can’t be sure how exactly the events unfolded on Sunday June 7, her third day on the job, but I can imagine she wasn’t afraid of confronting a thief that had just stolen $110 of gas. What she didn’t know was that the man had a criminal history.
Maryam’s story didn’t end there and then. On Thursday June 10 as her 6- year old son Koorosh said goodbye to his mom, Maryam’s husband demonstrated extraordinary courage. Respecting her wishes, he made the difficult decision of donating her organs and saving 6 lives by the end of the day.
As Calgary came to grips with this grim tragedy, the premier of Alberta vowed to change the law to prevent future gas-and-dash incidents.
My heart is heavy and I feel devastated thinking about what her husband and her son have endured. I wish I could tell Koorosh that her mother would have wanted him to have courage and she would have wanted him to grow up in an environment where hard work, determination and integrity are rewarded.
For now Ahmad and Koorosh need time to grieve alongside their families back home, but I hope they decide to come back to live in Canada.
Bahar Aminvaziri is a mother and a Senior Engineer with the Government of Ontario. She lives with her family in Richmond Hill.