(Left) Hala El Bassel and her daughter Engy Selim when she graduated; (Right) Hala's daughter Noha Mahmodu Maged Selim broke down at the Cairo International airport after the flight went missing
Cairo - Hala El Bassel and her daughter Engy Selim were on that ill-fated EgyptAir flight after what we can only imagine was a great week-long vacation in Paris.
"It's raining in Paris today," said a thrilled Hala Abdelhamid El Bassel, 57, before boarding the ill-fated EgyptAir 804 flight with her 26-year-old daughter Engy Mahmoud Maged Selim. One of the last messages that she sent to her family based in Cairo was that of a video of a heavy downpour in Paris as their flight was delayed. She smelled the rain, felt the wind, oblivious to the storm that would follow - who knew that would be the last rain she would ever experience.
The EgyptAir Flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people onboard crashed in the Mediterranean, after disappearing off the radar screen. Egypt's navy found human remains, wreckage and the personal belongings of passengers floating in the Mediterranean about 290 km (180 miles) north of Alexandria.
Hala El Bassel and her daughter Engy Selim were on that flight after what we can only imagine was a great week-long vacation in Paris.
"They always travel with the whole family, only this time she decided to go with her daughter," said Hala's niece M.D. who is a student at American University of Cairo.
Hala was a housewife who earlier worked with a travel company and Engy recently graduated from Misr International University. She was also a mother of three children (including Engy) and a grandmother of a two-year-old girl. Throughout their vacation they kept sending happy pictures of their time in Paris.
(Hala kept sending joyous pictures of her vacation in Paris with her daughter Engy)
"My aunt, who was my mother's best friend, was a very cheerful lady and full of life. She was the heart of all family gatherings and she would laugh and joke with everyone. Our families would always get together for all iftars. It's difficult now to imagine how Ramadan is going to be without them. Even as I speak now I can see her smiling upon us from up there," said M.D., choked as she fondly remembered her aunt.
Engy, Hala's middle child, was always referred to as an angel, she added. She used to teach French in a school. "Well, God took her angel back with her."
When the flight went missing, Hala's family was in complete denial - not ready to accept that they wouldn't ever see them again. They held on to the last straw of hope, till they heard the news of the plane crash and that there were no survivors.
(Hala's family at the Cairo International airport after the flight went missing)
Hundreds gathered for the funeral that was held a few days later at the Hassan El Sharbatly mosque in New Cairo.
"We walked there even though we couldn't believe what happened. We hear about such accidents, a plane falls or explodes, but it is always far away from us, it was always so far-fetched until it happened to us," said M.D.
Relatives sobbed and prayed as the Imam who led the service, offered words of comfort to the bereaved family. Some shed tears. Others asked questions. Everyone got a hug.
"The funeral service was so packed with people there was no place for anyone to stand," said M.D. "It was really heartwarming."
The relatives came together for a few hours, then they all left, bouncing back to their daily lives. However, the victims' family stayed, grappling with tears, trying to absorb the brutal shock that left deep crevices in their lives. Crevices that can never be filled. Ramadan or no Ramadan, they will be in despair, mourning their losses.
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