SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City wrapped a refugee from Ethiopia in a "quilt of love" when her 3-year-old daughter was transported to Primary Children’s Hospital after she was stabbed during her birthday party in Boise Saturday.
Little Ruya Kadir, whom International Rescue Committtee caseworkers in Boise described as "the epitome of sweetness," had a penchant for all things pink and Disney princesses. She died Monday at the Salt Lake hospital.
Ruya and her mother fled violence in Ethiopia in December 2015 and were resettled in Boise by the International Rescue Committee in 2015. The child’s father is in Turkey.
Saturday night, as Ruya celebrated her third birthday, a 30-year-old man burst into her outdoor party and stabbed six children and three adults. Ruya was among the most seriously injured so she was flown to Salt Lake for advanced care.
She and her mother were accompanied to Utah by members of IRC’s Boise office and friends from Idaho, but they were also supported by numerous Utahns upon their arrival, among them the Ethiopian community, employees of the Salt Lake office of IRC, Muslim faith leaders and Aden Batar, director of immigration and refugee resettlement for Catholic Community Services of Utah, which also resettles refugees in Utah.
Although Ruya succumbed to her injuries, Patrick Poulin, IRC’s acting regional director, said the expert and compassionate care she received at Primary Children’s Hospital gave the child’s mother precious time to say goodbye to her beloved daughter.
"The medical staff at Primary Children’s were incredible. Also the Muslim and Ethiopian community support was extremely touching. We had people showing up that didn’t know this family, providing support, being on site and staying with the mother through her stay at the hospital, providing food and just the community support. It was a very powerful thing to witness," Poulin said.
Both IRC and community members provided translation services "so there was plenty of language support in place" in addition to those provided by the hospital, he said.
"It was pretty remarkable to see how the hospital allowed multiple visitors at a time, sensitive to the cultural nuances, which really made a difference in her trying to cope and be comforted through this terrible time," he said.
Poulin said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill also visited the hospital to lend his support and condolences.
"I think it just speaks to the whole community being impacted by such a horrific act. I think it really touched a nerve for all of us, the amount of senseless violence that’s occurring. At the same time, it just showed the power of community and people coming together to provide support for each other," Poulin said.
The irony of this event is that "refugees are fleeing for their lives, often experiencing senseless violence such as this," Poulin said. "To be one of the fortunate few to be resettled in this country to have this happen is just unthinkable. It’s a double tragedy, so to speak."
While all had hoped and prayed for a different outcome, Poulin said he was profoundly grateful for the efforts of Ruya’s medical team.
"I know that the medical staff certainly did everything possible to try to save Ruya. For me, what they did do, they provided two days for her and her mom to come to grips and for the community to reach out and provide this support and surround her with a kind of quilt of love. It would have been so much different if we had arrived Sunday morning with the mom and had found that she (Ruya) had already passed away, (then) none of that would have happened," he said.
A 3-year-old Idaho girl who was stabbed at her birthday party died Monday, two days after a man invaded the celebration and attacked nine people with a knife, authorities said.
"Obviously it’s tragic that she died but to have two days of being able to say goodbye and have that comfort was very powerful to me. I did tell the medical staff and I was hoping they could accept that. Whether they realize it or not, they made an incredible difference in the life of the mom."
The recovery of the other victims, all refugees from Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia, is ongoing, said Julianne Donnelly Tzul, executive director of the Boise office of International Rescue Committee.
Many of the victims are recovering well from their physical injuries, but the trauma of the attack will stay with the children for a long time, Donnelly Tzul said.
Ruya’s mother is in a state of "deep grieving," she said.
A fund has been established at the Boise IRC office to assist the survivors with medical bills, to help them relocate from the apartment complex where the attack occurred and pay for other needed supports.
The group’s Boise office has arranged meetings with police and the community to talk through the events and has had mental health professionals assisting those impacted by the attack.
Aside from financial support, Donnelly Tzul encouraged people, wherever they live, to reach out and form personal connections with refugees.
"You can become a family mentor and learn about someone’s life and have them teach you all the strengths and richness they’re bringing to our community.The power of personal relationship is really profound and I encourage people to build that wherever they may be," she said.
The recovery of the refugees in Boise will be ongoing so Poulin encouraged Utahns to continue to support them in the months ahead.
"We are one community," he said.
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