Memorial commemorates fallen Ryerson pilots

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By Luc Rinaldi

In a rare display of stillness amid a bustling Week of Welcome, roughly 200 members of the Ryerson community gathered to commemorate the lives of a lost student and alumnus last Friday.

Classmates, family and friends remembered Marko Misic and Mohammed Shahnawaz Zia, two young pilots who died in a plane crash northwest of Kitchener on the night of Aug. 24. They gathered to share stories of their friends at the Sears Atrium in the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

“They were gentle souls who left an impression on everyone they met,” said Mohamed Lachemi, dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science, one of many who took to the podium during the hour-long service.

The near-dozen speakers — from President Sheldon Levy to members of the Bombardier aerospace team who worked with both Misic and Zia — recalled two outstanding men who had bright futures ahead of them.

“[Misic] could always light up a room with his contagious smile and laughter,” said Michael Kelly, a close friend and former classmate of Misic’s at Bishop Allen Academy in Etobicoke. “His determination and drive, for me, was inspiring.”

Already a decorated pilot at 20, Misic was also an avid soccer player, “an outstanding musician, a good Catholic and a proud Croatian,” said Kelly.

This fall, Misic would have entered his third year of aerospace engineering — a program fellow passenger Zia had already graduated from. “All I can think about is the good times we had together and how fortunate we were to have known him,” said Asad Qamar, a Ryerson alumnis who attended the memorial to pay homage to his late friend Zia.

Qamar described the 23-year-old as considerate, humble, intelligent and friendly. A table tennis pro, Zia always sat in the front row of the class, whether it was 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. — even if he was on “his beloved iPhone” the whole time, Qamar joked.

After finishing his career at Ryerson, Zia began another at Bombardier, where he had always dreamed of working.

With the many stories of what Misic and Zia had already accomplished in their short lives came questions of what else the two might have achieved. David Catania, a Bombardier analyst who had been working closely with Misic over the summer, told the silent crowd about how Misic had promised to come visit him in Alliston, Ont., where he flew gliders.

“Who knows what the future would have held?” Catania asked. While Misic won’t be making that trip to visit Catania, another speaker — Paul Walsh, chair of aerospace engineering — assured that there would still be a place for Misic in the future. “He will be forever in our minds young and doing what he loved.”

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