AURORA, Col. – As they sit at the home of a friend, Ridah Nejadi, 17, and her sister Rusul, 15, say they’re trying to reminisce about good times with their parents.
“I try to keep in mind that they’ve been there for me,” Ridha said.
Their parents brought them to the United States from Iraq when they were little.
“My parents did everything to keep us safe and have a roof over our heads and food and everything,” Rusul said.
They say it was not uncommon for the family to be loud and full of chatter from their two younger sisters, aged 6 and 9.
“My parents were really good people, great providers and all. Especially my mom, my mom was, like, the best mom ever. She was the best person,” Rusul recalled.
Too fast, the family is changed forever.
On the evening of February 11, Denver Police Department officers responded to the family’s home in the 5400 block of the Topeka Courthouse with reports of a shooting.
The children’s mother, Khitam Jumaah, 33, was taken to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, but died of her injuries. Her death was ruled a homicide.
The children’s father, Suars Ghaidan, 45, was taken to hospital with a gunshot wound. The next day he died of his injuries. The Denver coroner’s office ruled his death a suicide.
“Mom and I were talking, like, five minutes before it happened. We were packing gift bags for my sister’s birthday party. And then we were also talking about my sweet 16 and stuff. And then that’s literally all what is there before it happened, ”said Rusul. “I wake up every morning hoping it’s a nightmare.”
Losing both parents in one night is unimaginable. When you sit down with the two teenagers, their resilience is palpable.
“My mom did that to us. If we were upset about something that wasn’t a big deal, or we knew it was going to be over soon, she’d tell us off for being emotional about it. I think it strengthened her to get up,” Rusul explained, describing her mother as her best friend.
Rusul’s teacher at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Early College, Pamela Leonidas, has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the four teens as they grapple with their uncertain futures. They have no family members living in the United States.
“Maybe the organizations will sponsor these children’s education, so it’s not something that they have to think about, among other things that they will have to work and process,” Leonidas said, “I was just like, ‘What is it’ that we need? How do we get the resources possible?” Think long-term, not just short-term”.
As of Friday night, the fund has raised more than $23,000.
Denver7 Gives has also launched a fund to help children. One hundred percent of the contributions will be used to help support their needs.
If you would like to help the four siblings, please visit Denver7 Gives and select “Support Four Siblings Through Tragedy” from the drop down menu.
As the brothers face the future together, they have a simple message for all of us.
“Please take your time with your family to understand all kinds of difficulties they are having,” Ridha said.
“Hug your moms, hug your parents,” Rusul added.
If you feel you may be in a domestic violence situation, there is help available. You can text “START” to 88788 to be connected to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or you can call 800-799-7233. Safehouse Denver also offers a 24-hour information and helpline at 303-318-9989.