The town of Wilbraham, Massachusetts proclaimed June 29th “Theeb Al-Yami and Jaser Al-Rakah Remembrance Day” to commemorate the heroism and sacrifice of the two Saudi nationals who perished in the Chicopee River on June 29th, 2018 attempting to save the lives of local women and children in distress. Al-Yami and Al-Rakah were cousins from Najran Saudi Arabia who were studying engineering in the United States.
Attorney Cynthia Hazar Fareed, the families’ legal representative, and spokesperson worked with the Town to secure the historic proclamation, the first such honor bestowed in the United States on Saudi-Arabian citizens. Ms. Fareed shared the following remarks at the Town’s proclamation ceremony:
“Theeb Al-Yami and Jaser Al-Rakah died heroes, saving the lives of total strangers, some of them children, who were captured by sudden strong currents in the Chicopee River. Theeb and Jaser, both engineering students, drowned so that others in their community could live.
On behalf of their families, who are joining us in this ceremony virtually from Saudi Arabia, I want to thank the Town of Wilbraham for today’s proclamations honoring Theebs and Jaser’s courage, selflessness, and ultimate sacrifice. Their families’ pain will never go away but Wilbraham’s public recognition of what their sons did, to help others, brings a sense of pride and comfort.
I especially want to thank Town Administrator Nick Breault for helping me to make this happen, as well as The Board of Selectmen Robert Boilard, Carolyn Brennan, and Theresa Goodrich for their support in making these proclamations a reality. We would also like to thank Gia Varlotto and State Representative Angelo Puppolo.
In Arabic, the name Theeb means “wolf.” Wolves in the wild are known to sacrifice themselves to save others in their pack. Theeb considered strangers in distress to be members of his pack, and he sacrificed himself for them. The name Jaser in Arabic means “fearless.” Jaser certainly personified his name when he jumped in that river with no thought for his own safety or wellbeing.
Two young men from Najran Saudi Arabia, whose fates put them in a position to make a difference, chose to help their fellow man even though it meant losing their own lives. We are all brothers and sisters, wherever we are from and whatever our cultures. May today’s proclamations honoring the memories of Theeb Al-Yami and Jaser Al-Rakah remind us of this truth, and may their example serve as a beacon for greater understanding, respect, and love — both for and among all peoples.
As we say in Arabic Allahyerhamoum …. May God Bless their souls”