'Excellent in everything': teacher remembers teen killed in London, Ont. attack
Elementary school teacher Hanni Shahatto remembers the last time he saw his former student, 15-year-old Yumnah Afzaal.
Just before Ontario was set to enter into lockdown again in April, Yumnah had paid a visit to her old Grade 7 and 8 teacher at the elementary school she had graduated from the previous year.
"She said, 'Mr. Hanni, I wanted to come today, because I feel like today's probably the last time, I'm going to see you for a long time.’ And that was the last time I saw her," he told CTV National News in London, Ont.
On Sunday, Yumnah was killed along with her parents and her grandmother in a vehicle attack that police believe was fuelled by anti-Muslim hate.
Shahatto, who had taught Yumnah geography, history and English at London Islamic School, is remembering her as an "extremely talented, extremely intelligent, warm-hearted" student, brimming with potential.
"She's unique and beyond her years, and all the attributes I just mentioned, her intelligence, her talents, her emotional intelligence," said Shahatto.
"She had such an eye for the arts, such an ability in academics. Socially, (she was) everybody's friend. She was just excellent in everything."
Shahatto had known Yumnah since she was a young child, when he had filled in for her Grade 2 teacher.
"Yumnah, since she was a little kid, she just has this... sparkling personality. You'll notice a kid like that in any classroom," he added.
Yumnah also had a passion for art, something that didn't go unnoticed by Shahatto. After seeing her talent, he offered her the opportunity to paint a wall-to-ceiling mural at the school.
"She jumped at this opportunity. She had a deep love for the school. She wanted to give back. She wanted to leave her legacy," said Shahatto.
While Yumnah would spend her weekends with Shahatto working on the mural, they were often joined by Yumnah's parents, Salman Afzaal and Mediha Salman, who he calls "beautiful examples of people."
"They cared about Yumnah so much, they made the time to be with her for every minute that we were working on a mural, supporting her," Shahatto said.
Shahatto says he's "not 100-per-cent shocked" that such an attack took place, given that he's felt "like I needed to be on guard" ever since the 9/11 attacks, which led to a rise in anti-Muslim violence across North America.
"(The attack) kind of validates feelings I've had for a long time that I need to be on guard, no matter what security systems are in place," he said.