“They saved their whole lives for this”: An American woman’s grief when her parents die on Hajj



CNN

Saeeda Wari said that participating in the Hajj had been her parents’ dream all her life, which is the religious pilgrimage that brings Muslims from all over the world to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia every year.

They spent $23,000 on an all-inclusive travel package through a tour company registered in Maryland.

“They saved their whole lives for this,” she told CNN’s Frederica Whitfield.

But what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime turned into a tragedy this week, when Wori learned that her mother, Isatou Tijan Wori, 65, and her father, Aliu Dausi Wori, 71, were among hundreds of pilgrims who died during the Hajj. Extreme temperature Which invaded the Persian Gulf state. More than 500 Their deaths have been confirmed, while there are fears that the number far exceeds a thousand.

The Worries were American citizens from Bowie, Maryland. Ms. Woori recently retired from her job as chief nurse at Kaiser Permanente in Prince George’s County, her daughter told CNN.

Speaking to Whitfield on CNN on Saturday, Worrie said she had been in close contact with her parents while they were in Saudi Arabia via a family group chat. She said that she learned in that chat that the tour company did not provide appropriate transportation or the necessary credentials to participate in the Hajj. She said the group her parents were traveling with, which included up to 100 fellow pilgrims, lacked enough food and supplies for the five- to six-day journey that is a pillar of Islam.

Woori believes her parents were not “adequately prepared” for the trip by the tour operator and “did not receive what they paid for” from the company. CNN has reached out to the tour company for comment.

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Family photo

Isatou Tejan Wori and Aliu Dausi Wori.

The last time she heard from her parents was on Saturday, June 15, when her mother texted her that they had been waiting for transportation for hours to take them to Mount Arafat. She believes they were present in Mina at that time. The couple eventually chose to walk instead and sent a message to their daughter after walking for more than two hours.

The couple then joined fellow pilgrims and others in their tour group on Mount Arafat, where they gathered to pray and meditate at the holy site. One of the men in the tour group called Ms. Woori to tell her that her parents had gone missing on Mount Arafat, after her father said he could not continue the journey and had stopped for a rest stop along the way. The man continued his ascent to the top of Mount Arafat, but he was unable to find the couple upon his descent.

Woori received death notices from the US Consulate in Jeddah, which she obtained from the Saudi Ministry of Interior, saying that her parents died of “natural causes” on June 15. Someone at the US embassy later told her that heatstroke would be serious. It is considered a natural cause.

The Consulate General told her that her parents had already been buried, but they could not tell her exactly where they were buried.

Now, Saeeda and her siblings are doing everything they can to get answers and find where their parents are buried.

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“We have asked the Saudi government to detain the bodies so that we can travel to Saudi Arabia to at least give them a proper burial with [their] “The children were present and able to identify the bodies,” Whitfield said. “Unfortunately, they’ve already been buried.”

⁠ She would like American diplomats to meet her and her siblings on the ground when they arrive to help them find where their parents are buried and collect their belongings, because she does not know Arabic and is not familiar with the region. She added that until Saturday, the diplomats had not committed to meeting them in person in Saudi Arabia.

The US State Department confirmed that there had been “deaths of several American citizens in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” but refused to comment on any details about the Warri family.

Extreme heat has been identified as a major factor behind hundreds of deaths and injuries reported this year during the Hajj season. Mecca, the holy city considered a hub for pilgrims, saw temperatures soar to a record high of 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday.

High temperatures were expected during this year’s meeting, with the Saudi army deploying more than 1,600 personnel with medical units and 30 rapid response teams specifically for heatstroke. There were also 5,000 other health and first aid volunteers on duty.

But CNN spoke to other pilgrims who said that the preparations were not sufficient, with only one pilgrim present a description Seeing fellow worshipers losing consciousness and walking past bodies covered in white clothes.

The exact number of deaths remains unclear and is expected to rise, as countries around the world independently announce the deaths of their citizens.

Concerns about inappropriate tour groups have also increased. Egypt announced that it had canceled the licenses of 16 travel agencies organizing Hajj trips on Saturday, according to the state-run Ahram Online news agency.

This is not the first time that hundreds of pilgrims have died while traveling to perform the Hajj, which this year attracted more than 1.8 million people. In 2015, more than 700 people were killed During a stampede in the city of Mina, Saudi Arabia, outside Mecca. In 2006, 363 people were killed during a stampede at the site where pilgrims gathered to participate in the “stoning of the devil” ritual in Mina. Last year, more than 200 people died.

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