Before Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha was killed on Feb. 10, she had an epiphany in her architecture class.
The youngest victim of the shooting, 19-year-old Razan was a first-year student in N.C. State's College of Design, studying architecture. Christian Karkow, an artist and designer who runs Raleigh Brightwork, taught Razan in his rigorous Fundamentals of Architecture class.
"These are big classes which meet for three to four hours, three times a week. Students get close, they dive in head first into the hard work of becoming architecture students," Karkow said. "It's like art school. They work really hard; they pull all-nighters."
Here is how Karkow remembered his young student last week:
"Regretfully, I've been thinking about how little I got to know her. It's only been a few weeks since class started. Razan always had a light smile on her face, regardless of the stress and confusion of some of the assignments, regardless of her understanding. She always seemed patient and willing to listen. She was quiet and shy, in a good way. Over the last three or four weeks since class began, she kind of blossomed a little more each day and became more vocal. She started interacting with her peers and became a leader. She'd be the one to grab the chalk and take notes for her group. She was quiet and shy in the beginning and then Razan became more outspoken, but still a modest young woman.
"There was a pack of girls Razan had gotten friendly with. She was the quiet one. Some students, I noticed, were just getting to know her, this was the first time they had had class with her. She and her friends would travel around in a pack, they were intense and happy. They brought good warmth to the studio in these lectures.
"There is really only one anecdote I think I can offer and I have been using it as my story to remember her by. It was coincidental, the timing. We had just given out assignments for the students to make plaster models of their designs. This would have been their first time to cast plaster, let alone to make a molding. It's difficult. Right after the lecture, Razan waited patiently for me to finish talking with some other students. When we were done, as soon as she got to me, she lit up in her shy, polite way, just this young woman who had waited patiently to ask her question. She asserted her solution. She was excited; she had thought it all through. It was exciting to see her propose it. There was some confusion in her explanation so I offered a different approach. We went to her desk and did a demonstration together.
"Within a few moments after we began the demonstration, she lit up like she completely got it. In her eyes, I remember the most, just the kindness in her eyes. Behind those deep eyes, a little bulb went on, and she no longer needed me. It's the moment any teacher wants to have with their students, like, 'OK, they get it, you can go now.'
Razan's death was Tuesday evening. I didn't see her in class that morning. But the model she had left behind proved, she had got it. She had gone from zero to 60 with that model. And I was so pleased with her. It kills me that I can't tell her more about this. She had made my week, she really had."
This article appeared in print with the headline "A model student.".