Long Beach, News

CSULB holds vigil for family killed in Halloween crash

“There are no words to describe this tragedy,” President Jane Close Conoley said to an emotional crowd.

A vigil was held at the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center Monday night to remember the life of Omar Awaida and his family who were killed after being struck by a car on Halloween night.

“We are heartbroken,” Conoley said. “We lost part of our Beach family and it’s devastating. We have Omar and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

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Vigil attendees wore ribbons saying “Forever in our hearts” in remembrance of the family.

Madalyn Amato/Daily Forty-Niner

Omar, who was 3-years-old, was enrolled in pre-school at the IPCDC. People who got a chance to work with Omar at the IPCDC reflected on what a joyful kid he was and how active he was at the center.

“I remember him [Omar] coming to my office every morning to say ‘hello,’” said Lisa Harris, assistant director at the infant and toddler program at the IPCDC. “Omar came to us when he was 3-months-old and was here until he was 2-and-half years. He pretty much learned to walk and talk here at the IPCDC.”

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Omar, 3, is remembered by faculty and staff of the Child Development Center as a source of Joy for all.

Madalyn Amato/Daily Forty-Niner

Other faculty members reflected on the life of Raihan Dakhil, mother of Omar and recent Long Beach State graduate.

“She was very passionate about helping children and families,” said  James Schrage, a former social work professor of Dakhil.

Schrage shared that Dakhil was everything a professor could ask for in a student.

“She was very active in her Muslim community as well as here in the city of Long Beach,” Schrage said. “She was such a great student, always participating and getting other students involved.”

He also recalled that Dakhil would stay sometimes after class to learn more about a subject that she found interesting.

“It’s really sad that something this tragic all happened to her and her family. You can tell she was meant to do big things for this community,” Schrage said.

Dakhil graduated with a social work degree in spring 2019. Her husband, Joseph Awaida, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2018.

An emotional moment occurred when Lisa Harris asked the crowd to join her in singing Omar’s favorite song, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

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Long Beach city Mayor Robert Garcia gives comfort and solace to Vera Awaida, Omar’s grandmother.

Madalyn Amato/Daily Forty-Niner

After a moment of silence was held in the courtyard, friends and family members shared some of their favorite moments with the family in front of the crowd.

“We appreciate the love shown these last few days,” said Vera Awaida, Omar’s grandmother. “We’re taking it one day at a time and we’re thankful for the community we live in.” 

A GoFundMe page was created by a friend of the family, Brian Dokko, to help cover the medical expenses of the family. However, after updating of the passing of the family, Dokko said that the money will still be used for funeral expenses, and the remaining money will be used towards a “lasting legacy project.” 

As of Nov. 5, the donations have exceeded $220,000.

Watch our video coverage of the vigil here.

Video by: Madalyn Amato

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