Northwest High School graduates, staff mourn loss of fellow classmates at graduation

- Artem Ziberov and Shadi Najjar were set to graduate from Northwest High School on Tuesday. However, the high school seniors were found gunned down in a car in Montgomery Village on the night before they were to walk the stage in front of family and friends.

Najjar, 17, and Ziberov, 18, both attended their graduation practice on Monday. Najjar’s father, Adi, said his son told him they were going out to sell extra graduation tickets and that was the last time he heard from him.

Shadi Najjar was an only child and an honor roll student. His father said he was a happy and good boy.

“It’s a disaster,” Shadi’s father told FOX 5. “But you know what? I’m a believer. I believe he is in a better place. But in the meantime, I’d like to find out what happened to him. Who killed him? What is the reason? There are a lot of questions that we still have no answer.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Northwest High School’s graduation ceremony was held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. This was a day that many students had been looking forward to.

As with most graduations, parents brought flowers and balloons and the graduates were dressed in their cap and gowns. But there was a sadness many experienced as well. The ceremony began with a moment of silence for the Najjar and Ziberov as well as another student lost earlier in the year.

“While we are here today to celebrate this momentous time in the lives of our graduates and their families, we have heavy hearts given the recent loss yesterday evening of two of our seniors as well as another senior,” said Northwest High School Principal Jimmy D'Andrea. “Please join me in a moment of silence for these three young men and their families.”

Outside of the ceremony, fellow students also spoke out about the loss of their classmates.

“It’s something that was unexpected really,” said Melike Omar. “But all we can do is pray. Pray that this world gets better because that really happened. It happened out of nowhere.”

Najjar’s family told FOX 5 they were all looking forward to graduation. They had been discussing the clothes he would wear and the way he would get to the ceremony.

Ziberov’s family said he was on his way to the University of Maryland this fall.

D'Andrea said he knew Ziberov and Najjar for five years dating back to their time in middle school. He described them as personable and excellent students. The principal said he will deliver their diplomas to their families personally later this week.

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