Thursday was DEAH DAY, or Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor, an annual day of service established by UNC Dental Students.
Dental students took off classes and clinics to do several types of service around the community to honor the memory of Deah Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha.
Dean of the School of Dentistry Scott De Rossi said there was 400 dental students participating at over 50 sites in the area.
“We lost two of our young members of our dental school community, Deah and his wife Yusor, several years ago and as a result the students really bounded together and wanted to do something in remembrance of Deah and his commitment to service. And so, from that sprung this incredible event where we have students throughout the area performing all sorts of volunteerism,” said De Rossi.
Barakat and Abu-Salha were two of three victims of a fatal shooting in February 2015. The third victim was Abu-Salha’s sister Razan Abu-Salha, a sophomore at NC State University. The shooting of the three Muslim students in Chapel Hill made national news overnight with advocates calling the murders a hate crime. Police said at the time the shooting was a result of an ongoing parking dispute.
Twenty students, along with De Rossi, were stationed at Chapel Hill’s Ronald McDonald House Thursday cleaning the grounds.
“We split up into different groups and basically today we’re just cleaning the facilities. Depending on where you are, they are changing air filters; we’re cleaning base boards: we’re vacuuming, just anything to keep the facilities in tip-top shape for all the residents,” said Caroline Bates, a third-year dental student.
Bates said DEAH DAY speaks volumes about the UNC dental community.
“We really do just rally behind one another and support one another and in times of crisis and in times of sadness we find ways to make it a positive thing, and I think DEAH DAY just really encompasses a lot of that,” said Bates.
Ronald McDonald House donor relations manager Haley Waxman said the house was happy to have the dental students there and honored to be a part of celebrating Barakat and Abu-Salha.
De Rossi says DEAH DAY is primarily run and coordinated by dental students.
“Deah would have graduated last year in May, and his wife would’ve been graduating this year. The amazing thing for me is that, and really the most special thing is, it’s an incredible tragedy that we have flipped and turned and created something special from it. In fact, Deah and Yusor actually have white coats in our lobby in the atrium of our dental school as a remembrance. I walk by it every day and the amazing thing is that for me it elicits two emotions, incredible sadness but immense pride. Immense pride in what our students have been able to do with an incredible tragedy. I’m so proud of them,” said De Rossi.