Published: Wednesday, 18 November 2020
When Joseph Awaida, Raihan Dakhil and their 3-year-old son Omar were fatally struck by an intoxicated driver last Halloween, it sent shockwaves throughout the Beach community. The family was known for their dedication to education and advocacy, as well as their deep connection to Long Beach State.
Joseph and Raihan were both recent LBSU graduates, and Omar was a vibrant student in the Infant & Toddler Program at the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center (IPCDC). When reflecting on her interactions with Omar, IPCDC Director Alec Colchico remembers him as a curious, confident child with plenty of joy to spare.
“I still remember the first time we met,” said Colchico. “While visiting his classroom, Omar ran up to me and asked, ‘What’s your name?’ I responded, ‘Alec.' He said ‘Oh,’ then immediately turned around and ran off like he owned the classroom and had to get back to it.”
Omar’s contagious smile, along with the entire family’s compassion, remain in the hearts and minds of the Beach community. On the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Awaida family, a remembrance walk was held in their honor. As Colchico explained, the scene was emotional to say the least.
“On Sunday evening, countless friends and family walked the same path of the Awaida family moments before they lost their lives,” she said. “We laid flowers where they were struck, sharing sentimental stories of our memories with Omar and his parents. Realizing one year had passed affected all of us, but seeing the deep impact the family had on our community was truly moving.”
The walk is not the only way the family is remembered. Shortly after their passing, Colchico knew the IPCDC needed something to remember them by. With support from Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and Long Beach State President Jane Conoley, Colchico commissioned Michael Gardner to construct permanent benches dedicated to the family. As the director of campus planning and sustainability, Gardner and the entire team were honored to fulfill the request.
According to Colchico, Gardner described it as a “labor of love,” and that “leaving something beautiful behind is a worthy goal,” a sentiment Colchico strongly agrees with.
The benches – one for the parents, and a smaller one for Omar – will become a key feature of the IPCDC courtyard where they will serve as both comfortable places to sit and poignant reminders of the loss of a family that embodied the spirit of the IPCDC and the Beach community.
“The Awaida family will always be remembered for their advocacy and a unique passion for our community,” Colchico said. “They were an important part of Long Beach State – with these benches, they will always be a part of us.”