'What Can You Say?' An Egyptian Man Mourns The Loss Of 4 Loved Ones | KUOW News and Information

'What Can You Say?' An Egyptian Man Mourns The Loss Of 4 Loved Ones

May 20, 2016
Originally published on May 20, 2016 4:55 pm

After the regular Friday prayers at Cairo's Sultan Hussain Mosque, it was time to say prayers for the dead.

Worshippers outside for the overflow service stood in neat rows through four calls of "God is great." They said silent prayers in between.

Afterward, Khalid al-Kassam, 67, received hugs and claps on the back from many friends. His brother and sister-in-law, plus their son and his wife, were all on EgyptAir Flight 804.

The son and his wife have two small girls, one age 2, the other just 8 months old. The children were not on the plane. They stayed with relatives in Cairo while their parents and grandparents went for what Kassam said was a vacation to Paris.

"What can you say? It's life. It's life. And there are many tragedies, not only ours. There are tragedies," said Kassam.

Egypt's military said the navy has found some of the wreckage and some human remains from EgyptAir Flight 804, which went down in the Mediterranean Sea early Thursday. There's still no word on what caused the crash that killed 66 people.

A friend of the Kassam family, Khalil Kandil, 48, described Ghassan Abou Laban, the father of those two little girls left behind, as a "gentle" person who had been married three years. His wife was from Syria, Kandil says.

"All these accidents, you always hear about them, and they're somebody else," Kandil adds. "That's the first time for me to have somebody I really know, know very well, that he's taken away."

But it's not just a personal loss that Kandil feels. He's a businessman. He has worked in heavy industry and shipping consumer goods to neighboring countries. He says in the end, the deadly crash just adds to the current woes of the region.

"At the end of the day, nobody will care a lot about why this plane crashed. Is it really a terrorist act or a [mechanical] failure? It's just another problem adding to the area, killing the tourism," he said.

A sense of deep sorrow sprinkled with fatalism permeated the crowd on the mosque sidewalk. Mariam Abu Shakra, 22, who just graduated from college, came to pay her respects even though she did not know any of those killed.

"It affected a lot of people," she said. "And it's not something small. It's not something someone could be quiet about. It's something huge. I don't know, I just see it as something really big."

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Egypt says search teams discovered the wreckage of Egypt Air flight 804 in the Mediterranean sea today - Luggage, airplane seats, other evidence and human remains. There's still no word on what caused the fatal crash that killed 66 people. NPR's Emily Harris reports from Cairo, where friends and families are mourning.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: After regular Friday prayers at the Sultan Hussain Mosque in a wealthy Cairo neighborhood, it was time for prayers for the dead. Worshipers outside for the overflow service stood in neat rows through four calls of God is great. They said silent prayers in between. Afterwards, 67-year-old Khalid al-Kassam received hugs from many friends. He lost four family members on the flight - a brother and a sister-in-law, plus their son and his wife.

KHALID KASSAM: And their son and his wife have two daughters - one 8 months - baby - and the other is 2 years.

HARRIS: Those children were not on the plane. They had stayed with family in Cairo when their parents and grandparents went to Paris for pleasure, Kassam said.

KASSAM: What can you say? It's life. It's life. And there are many tragedies, not only ours. There are tragedies. I sympathize with them.

HARRIS: Nearby, Khalil Kandil, a friend of the family, described Ghassan Abu Laban, the dad of those two little girls left behind, as a gentle person who had been married three years.

KHALIL KANDIL: All these accidents, we always hear about them, and they are somebody else - it happened to somebody else. It's the first time for me to have somebody I really know - really know very well.

HARRIS: Kandil also feels more than a personal loss. He's a businessman. He has worked in heavy industry and shipping consumer goods to neighboring countries. He says news of this Egypt Air crash compounds the region's problems and battered reputation.

KANDIL: So many bad news. At the end of the day, nobody will care a lot about why this plane crashed. Is it really a terrorist act or a failure? It's just another problem adding to the area, killing the tourism.

HARRIS: A sense of deep sorrow sprinkled with fatalism permeated the crowd outside the huge mosque. Mariam Abu Shakra, just graduated from college, came to pay her respects, even though she personally knew no one onboard.

MARIAM ABU SHAKRA: Because it affected a lot of people. And it's not something someone could, like, be quiet about or - it's something you just - I don't know. I just feel it's something really big.

HARRIS: Something really big, she calls this deadly plane crash, but not big enough to keep her from flying. Whether you're traveling or staying at home, she says, you never know what's coming tomorrow. Emily Harris, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.