Reera, My little bird
Reera was born on May 23, 2010 to a middle class family in Tehran, Iran, at Pars Hospital to be precise.
Her passport photo dates back to when she was only three days old while she was suspected to have jaundice. She had a small vaccine scar on her right arm and a full head of beautiful brown hair.
When she was 6 months old, she immigrated to Canada with her parents. She kept hearing from them how she had the best childhood having the benefit of both parents caring for her 24-7 for 2.5 years.
She celebrated her 3rd birthday in the small town of Hanover, where her parents found work, where she learned English, where she learned French at a French immersion school. She started playing the piano at the age of 3.
She tried many sports; swimming, soccer, chess, taekwondo, and gymnastics. She had a green belt in taekwondo and she was playing left defender for Richmond Hill’s soccer team. She did until she boarded that Ukranian plane on January 8, 2020. She did until she flew home that day, because she was missing home, because she was missing her father.
“Baba, is it ok if someone doubts God?”, she asked her father one day, to which he responded “No, why?”. “Today one of my classmates said everybody believes in God. I said I have my doubts. I said all of this could be created by accident. All of this order you are talking about could be made out of pure chance; not to mention Darwin’s theory.” Her parents looked at each other in surprise. They told her that it’s good that she questions; it’s good that she reasons. Her serious tone that day was far from her usual sense of humor. When she would say to her mother “You’ve been living with me for 9 years, yet you don’t know to separate the chicken from rice in Zereshk-polo & Chicken?” Her sense of humor was innate and explosive; deep, sweet and lasting. At the same time, she was a deep thinker and she was analytical.
She knew about the Canadian politics; the Prime Minister, the Premier, even the local parliament member. She would follow the municipal election and she would speak to her father about it. Her mother would supervise her school matters, mostly French, Farsi, English spelling, and Math. She would get invited to piano recitals, though she favored today’s pop hits and was not particularly impressed by Shawn Mendes’ romance with Camila Cabello.
Swinging on the monkey bars, tying her cardigan around her waist, losing her water bottle, taking long baths, playing with her stuffed animals and Legos, and watercolor painting were her favorite things to do. She loved to travel and always appreciated exploring new territories. She would visit museums attentively. She wanted to take a selfie with the Statue of Liberty and drink a butterbeer at the London Harry Potter’s exhibition to pretend she’s Hermione Granger.
Reera’s name was rooted in the Mazandaran region. She was named after Neema’s Poem; she was named after the goddess of vegetation in the Caspian Hyrcanian forests where her grandfather was a conservation officer for years. Her father would call her “Reera, the little bird”; she would giggle, “my name is Reera, I am a cheerful girl”, she would say. She liked her name.
She would speak to her grandmothers in Iran every week and she was as fluent in speaking and writing Farsi as she was in English and French. One day she would want to be a teacher, another day a librarian, a dentist, a painter. Finally, she landed on becoming a scientist, dreaming to one day make walking possible for the kids on the wheelchair.
In December 2019, when she was in fourth grade, and while she was working on a paper on Hound of the Baskervilles from the Sherlock Holmes series, Reera traveled to Iran with her mother. She had a great time there; she attended her aunt’s wedding, danced and had a blast. She met her uncle’s chicken whom they jokingly called “Dinosaur”. They gave her presents; they gave her stuffed animals; a pink elephant called “Elly” and a turtle called “Lucky”. She bought the full book series “The Adventures of Tintin”, only to keep bragging about it to her father. Her father couldn’t wait to hear all about her trip.
On January 8, 2020, she and her mother boarded the Ukrainian flight PS752 that was downed by IRGC only 3 minutes after takeoff, bringing her short precious life of nine years and six months and sixteen days to an end.
“I am deeply sorry sweetheart”, Her father wrote to her on the day that she would have turned 10.
“I am sorry to bring a soul to this world to end up in those three minutes of horror. I am sorry to have failed to protect you from mankind’s ill intentions and ignorance. I am sorry to have lost your teenage years and your stubbornness. I am sorry that you didn’t get the chance to fall in love, you didn’t step foot on new places you wanted to visit. I am sorry that you didn’t get to go to university, many kids on the wheelchair were deprived of your help. I am sorry you didn’t get to surf the sea of your limitless potentials and reach high and far. I am deeply sorry, my sweet little girl, that future, for you, your mom, and for me turned into cold ashes.
My innocent little girl, those who took your precious life, walk around without a guilty conscience. With all their cruelty, they are doing everything in their power to obstruct the course of justice. There is nothing left of me. You had doubted God; I have doubted everything. I have doubted love, beauty, color; I have doubted humanity. Sweetheart, among all the words I taught you, how come I missed the word “victim?” I never got the chance until your birthday. Victim means you, your mother, me. Victim of violence, of ignorance, of malevolence. Victim means Anne Frank whose story you had read. My little girl, my delicate little Anne Frank who brutally burnt into ashes in that Auschwitz of Tehran airport.
I am sorry that you didn’t get to see your 10th birthday. I don’t even know what present I would have given you, other than perhaps more books. Books that I have now doubted too.
I promise you to keep your memory alive; no matter how forgetful they are. To the United Nations, to the Embassies, to the International Civil Aviation Organization, to the parliament, I will write to whoever is willing to hear my plea for justice. I’d do anything; I’d go on strikes, send emails, meet officials, anything. I will put my entire being on the tip of this spear and with all my strength I will aim at them, at their deceit and their malice. I don’t know how long this journey will last, but at the end of it, I will reunite with you. So long sweetheart…”
Writer: Hamed Esmaeilion (Reera’s dad)