US community unites in spirit of slain Muslim teen
"You represent the spirit of Nabra," Imam Mohammed Magid told the multiethnic, mutlireligious gathering at northern Virginia's Lake Anne Plaza just hours after she was buried.
"We realize that we are in this together as one community," Magid added.
Nabra Hassanen was brutally murdered early Sunday in a tragedy police have linked to road rage, but which has nonetheless prompted wider safety concerns among the area's Muslim community.
Nabra's father told Anadolu Agency earlier this week he took pride in his daughter's hospitality, fondly remembering the diverse cross-section of people she would bring to their home.
"She loved everybody," Mohmoud Hassenen Aboras said.
Hamdi Sharif, 16, a classmate of Nabra's at South Lakes High School, said she was a "kind" and "funny" girl whose life was cut short far too early.
While there is yet no evidence Nabra was targeted because she was a Muslim, Sharif said she has been "more careful" since the fatal attack.
"You never know where you're safe, not even at the mosque where you worship God," said Sharif, who was wearing the Islamic head covering, or hijab.
Fairfax Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler said IF officials find any evidence of a hate crime, they will pursue the charge.
"I promise we will bring justice for Nabra and her community," he told Magid before the vigil began.
Among the multitudes who showed up to remember Nabra, was John Chadwell who believed it was important he came to "support the people who feel threatened.
"As a society, we need to feel there is a certain level of dignity and safety that everybody can expect," he said. "The Muslim community has a lot of support out there, it's just that evil acts can overshadow that very quickly, which is sad."
The support from non-Muslims such as Chadwell was heartening for Amina Nahavandi, 20, who said it is critical people continue to interact with those with whom they have little experience.
"Get to know your neighbors; get to know the people you're afraid of, because a lot of the fear comes from a place of not knowing" she said.
"You think you know someone because of what people say about them, but if people got to know each other, got to know people of different backgrounds," she said, "a lot of the hatred-fueled acts like this wouldn't exist."