High school students, staff, and members of the Amherst community gathered for a candlelight vigil at Sweetser Park on Tuesday, May 24 to pay tribute the Sayhan Islam who died in a single car accident on North East Street on the night of May 19. Five other students were injured in the crash, and four remain hospitalized. The gathering was estimated to include over 200 people.
Islam, age 19, was remembered fondly by family, teachers, and many of his friends. Danielle Seltzer, an English teacher who had Islam in her class last year when he first started at Amherst Regional High School, remembered him as an earnest and enthusiastic student who always attended class, even when he was in Bangladesh and it was 3 a.m. She noted that it must have been hard for him beginning a new school with no group of school friends when all instruction was remote, but Islam began playing basketball with a group of UMass students and always seemed upbeat to her and had no trouble making friends when school went back to in-person classes.
Islam’s older brother Safwan who lives in Boston told of the care Sayan provided for his mother who just recently learned to drive and has difficulty with English. He said, “I will have big shoes to fill.”
Many of Islam’s friends described him as open and easygoing, rapidly forming close friendships. Several said he could tell you his whole life and know everything about another person in a few hours. Many thanked his family for raising such a wonderful person.
Other friends noted Islam’s enthusiasm for playing lacrosse. Even though he was new to the sport, he was not deterred from trying out and loved being part of the team. The family was touched when the coaches and team members visited them at their home after the accident.
Islam’s mother Budrannassa Prodhan told of Sayhan taking her to get her driver’s license recently. She said, “Usually it is the parent taking the son. When I got that slip of paper, I started dancing in the parking lot, and Sayhan joined me.”
Islam’s family brought snacks and drinks for those attending the vigil, and asked his friends to “pray for Sayan.” They praised the Amherst community for providing support and helping them with the copious paperwork requested by various agencies. Messages on the surrounding sidewalk, said “Find Peace” and “Sayhan Islam you are loved”.
The family plans to travel to Bangladesh on Friday, May 27 to bury Islam there with his father. The Parent Guardian Organization at the high school has started a GoFundMe site to raise money to cover their travel and funeral expenses. As of May 26, over $12,000 of the $25,000 needed has been raised from 285 donors.