As soothing chants from the Koran played over an intercom, more than 500 mourners gathered Sunday evening at a Los Angeles Muslim cultural center to remember their loved one and friend, Touri Bolourchi.
It was a simple memorial service that was also a call for religious tolerance.
Bolourchi, 69, a retired nurse who spoke six languages and loved to garden and read, was one of 65 people aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the south World Trade Center tower. She was an Iranian-born Muslim who had studied nursing in England and had lived in the United States since 1979.
She was a wife, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother to two articulate boys who stood amid dozens of candles and an abundance of flowers.
“Grandma, I will never forget the way you knew about everything, the way you could do almost anything,” said Bolourchi’s 15-year-old grandson, Bobby Turan. “I will never forget your smile; it was as reliable as your Honda. Your kisses will always be like a renewal of energy for me.”
Leaders of the mosque and cultural center where Bolourchi had long worshiped hoped the service would help bring about a better understanding of the Muslim faith.
“I feel sorry that there are phrases like ‘Muslim extremists’ and ‘Muslim fundamentalists’ used to describe terrorists,” said M. Sadegh Namazikhah, founder and president of the Westside’s Iranian Muslim Assn. of North America. “Ours is a faith of peace and respect for human life.”
The 1½-hour service began with mourners listening to the gentle strains of Koran readings in prayerful Arabic chanting in the Los Angeles center’s large auditorium.
Mourners in black greeted the Bolourchi family with long embraces and kisses on both cheeks.
Then Dr. Abkar Bolourchi stood before a poster-size picture of his smiling wife that was surrounded by dozens of white candles. In a strong voice in his native Farsi, he prayed and offered condolences to the thousands of victims of last week’s terrorist attacks. A leader from the mosque translated.
“We all saw this tragedy, this fireball of evil,” he said. “I share my condolences with thousands of others and hope that they know that God has given them all the power to overcome this tragedy.”
Daughter Roya Turan, 40, of Boston arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday night after earlier flight bans at Boston’s Logan Airport. Her mother had just completed a two-week visit with her and was supposed to have arrived home in Los Angeles at 11:20 a.m. Tuesday.
Roya’s husband too has been caught in terrorism’s ripple effect and has been unable to return to the United States from a visit with his mother in Iran.
Roya and her sons boarded their plane Saturday with trepidation.
“I was really scared, but I didn’t want my mother to see it,” son Bobby said. “As the oldest son, I knew I had to be strong for her.”
Too overcome with grief to speak at the service, Roya Turan stood at her father’s right side as he read a letter she wrote.
“How do I respond to such a tragedy? My mother was the candle of our family. She was an angel in the form of a mother,” Turan’s father read.
Daughter Neda Bolourchi, 33, trembling and weeping, spoke briefly as if addressing her mother and stirred the emotions of many in attendance.
“My dear mother, I don’t believe that you are not with me and I can’t kiss your beautiful face,” she wrote. “I wanted to have more time with you, but please know that I love you with all my heart and I am glad that you have guided my life.”
In closing, Dr. Bolourchi told his friends and family that he took time in the past few days to write a poem for Touri, the woman he met when he was a young doctor and she was the head nurse at Women’s Hospital in Tehran.
“Touri, I’m searching to find you. I’m searching in a garden full of colorful flowers,” he said in a gentle, deep voice. “I’m searching for your scent in a thousand roses. When I look, I see your face in a river of water which is the life of this Earth.”