“I do not want to die,” the girl tells her brother before she lost her life in a tobogganing accident in Ottawa

Tears streamed down the face of a woman who was to bury her daughter on Thursday. Next to her sits a husband and father who put their arm around his wife stoically, though not empty of emotion.

The sorrow in his eyes tells a story of heartache.

“She often said to us, ‘I want to be an actress,'” her father Joseph Abi Assal said.

Josée Abi Assal, 11, was the youngest of his three siblings. She would have turned 12 in February. This would be her first Canadian winter, but Monday, December 27, would also be her last; a sledge took her life.

The tragedy hit Mooney’s Bay just before 3pm that afternoon. Josée was with her older siblings, and her aunt and cousins ​​who live close by. It was supposed to be a fun family activity for a long weekend after Christmas. Josée’s parents were not there. What they know about the crash is what their children witnessed.

The family says there were three on the sled. They had moved away from the crowds and were walking down the west side of the hill. They say the sled took off, spun around, and they slid backwards before crashing into one of the poles. After what the doctors told them, it cut off her spine.

“She asked her brother, ‘Why did this happen to me?'” Said mother Marie-Lou El-Kada. “She said to him, ‘I will not continue my life paralyzed. I will not die,'” she told him.

Josée’s brother, Jules, had been on the sleigh with her and one of their cousins. After colliding with the pole, other relatives, including her sister, hurried to her side. She asked her sister, Maria, for help, but she did not know what to do. Maria told her parents she was kissing her sister as her brother hugged her while they waited for the ambulance.

“My daughter said to me, ‘I did not know how to help her.’ She said, ‘I kissed her.’ I told her it’s enough – your kiss, “El-Kada said, her face contorted with grief.

The family says they break their silence in honor of a young girl who embodied love and to spare other families a similar fate of unbearable grief.

Josée Abi Assal

The family of five had moved from Lebanon just six months ago. The Ottawa-Gatineau region was to be their fresh start after the Beirut explosion and the violent clashes that protested against what protesters claim is a corrupt government.

El-Kada was a senior tax official in the Ministry of Finance back in Lebanon. As a 44-year-old, she is now studying for her MBA at the University of Quebec. Her husband owned a grocery store, but also has transferable accounting experience. The extended family in Canada welcomed them with open arms. The cousins, close in age, were happy to be together – no longer separated by a sea and several international borders.

Josée was already thriving at her school in Gatineau.

Through her mother’s eyes, wet with all the sorrow, there is still a twinkle that radiates pride. Exhibited during the interview is a trophy for floor hockey, a red ribbon in first place for cross-country skiing, certificates of merit and a small red book in which she wrote her love for family and God.

The family says their faith keeps them bound. The uncle, who lives near Mooney’s Bay, is a priest. They say it is the same faith that makes them hope that their daughter’s death will serve a greater purpose. They hope the city of Ottawa will do more to make the hill safe.

While the city has recognized that Mooney’s Bay is not a sanctioned hill for tobogganing, many Ottawa residents have been doing just that for decades.

grev. Riley Brockington is calling for a thorough safety review and says he had a meeting with the Parks and Recreation Department on Tuesday. He expects a follow-up next week.

Meanwhile, Josée had signed up for organ donation. Her eyes will now help two other people. Even then, the family hopes that it is the city of Ottawa that will be able to see that more needs to be done.


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