By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The gymnasium at Henry Ford Elementary School was filled with students, parents, community members from the city and staff from Dearborn Public Schools Feb. 14 to honor second-grader Larine Ahmad after her death.
The 7-year-old fell and became ill at school on Feb. 7 and was taken to a local hospital with an unspecified medical condition which caused her to die on the night of Feb. 9.
Neither the Ahmad family nor DPS released details on her death. Visitation services were held on Feb. 11 at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge before the family flew to Lebanon to bury Larine.
Larine’s parents were not in attendance at the candlelight vigil because they were still overseas, but those in attendance wore pink to honor Larine because it was her favorite color.
Seven fifth-graders from the school’s music club sang “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” led by Henry Ford Music Teacher Julianne Holmes.
In the spring, a weeping cherry tree will be planted in memory of Larine at the school.
Henry Ford Teacher Rhonda Hassan was Larine’s teacher and held back tears as she gave a speech during the vigil sharing memories of her student.
She told a story of how Larine always repurposed boxes, enjoyed arts and crafts with classmates and had recently decorated a napkin box for Valentine’s Day with hearts on it.
“I just want to extend a thank you to her parents for graciously allowing us to join them in the hospital room,” Hassan said. “It’s a memory I’ll never forget for my entire life. (Ghada) Burks and I had the pleasure of being with them in the morning and the father was so welcoming and kept talking to her and that we were there.
“At first I felt like we were overstepping — should we go, shouldn’t we go — and they were just so warm and welcoming. We went back in the evening and the family told us the teachers need to go up because the mom wanted us there.”
Burks, Larine’s kindergarten teacher, said she would play “Let It Go” from the “Frozen” movie soundtrack at Larine’s request while the girls would sing and dance in front of the screen inside the classroom.
“My message to all of us is to let it go — any hard feelings, let it go — any frustrations, let it go. There is no perfect, there’s just now,” Burks said. “Larine, you live on in all of us reminding us of your sweetness, light, giggles and smiles.
“To all the staff and teachers, once a child is a child in your room they’re yours forever. We shed tears with their frustrations and loss and we celebrate with their achievements and success.”
Larine’s cousin Hussein Hachem called her an angel before thanking the Dearborn community which “always comes together to support those in need.”
He also urged those in attendance to spend more time with their children, parents, siblings and other family members because no one knows when they will lose a loved one.
“We strengthen each other by supporting each other,” Hachem said. “We gather to celebrate her memory, we gather to celebrate her favorite, color which is pink. We gather to celebrate her favorite music and favorite movies and her memories which will live with us until we die.”
On Feb. 10, Henry Ford Principal Adnan Moughni wrote a message on the school’s website to the community regarding Larine’s death.
“Today has been a very sad and tragic day for all of us as we continue to grieve the loss of one our students,” Moughni wrote. “Throughout the day I have been in contact with the family, Supt. (Glenn) Maleyko and his administrative team, and our entire district crisis team. There is a plan in place to help our students, staff, and parents as they arrive at school on Monday morning. All of us, working together, will be able to help each other through this very difficult time.
“I do feel it is important to assure the students and parents of Henry Ford Elementary School that this incident is not the result of a school safety concern and our school continues to be a safe haven for your children.”
During the vigil, DPS Executive Director of Staff and Student Services Maysam Ali-Bazzi read a message from Maleyko, who was out of state for a national superintendent conference.
“I did not personally have the privilege of meeting beautiful Larine, but as a parent and as an educator her pictures represent the young, vibrant, innocent, humorous, curious, energetic and loving children that fill our homes, schools and community and most of all the children that fill our hearts,” Ali-Bazzi read.
“Losing someone at such a young age, doesn’t make sense and definitely doesn’t feel right, but we accept God’s plan. I ask that we all reflect on how memories of Larine can make each of us a better person to our friends, family, neighbors, classmates and every person that crosses our path.
Maleyko also posted a message on his blog Feb. 10 for staff, students and parents asking everyone to read a prayer for Larine’s family.
“Our most sincere condolences go out to the Ahmad family during this most difficult and tragic time,” Maleyko wrote. “Social workers and other staff will be at Henry Ford Elementary on Monday and as needed during the week to offer support for students and staff as they try to process the loss of their student, classmate, and friend. I also plan to visit the school with other central office administrators.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)