Sadiya and Hanah Sahal

Sadiya Sahal, a pregnant nursing student, and her 2-year old daughter Hannah, are among the missing in the I-35W bridge disaster.
Courtesy of Omar Jamal

For Ahmed Iidle, the I-35W bridge collapse has brought a double loss. His daughter Sadiya Sahal, 23, and her 2-year-old daughter Hanah, were headed to a relative's house when the bridge crumbled beneath them. Their bodies were pulled from the river a week later.

Iidle, who is a Somali immigrant, said his little granddaughter always made him happy and he loved his daughter dearly.

"She was a very peace-loving young lady, very social, outgoing, very kind, very family-oriented," said Iidle. "She was a very nice lady who was full of life and full of hope. The whole world was in front of her."

In June, Sadiya Sahal brought her cheerful daughter, Hanah, to a ceremony held at St. Paul's International Institute of Minnesota, for students who had completed a nursing assistant program and had passed the state's certification requirements.

A worried father
Ahmed Iidle, father of Sadiya Sahal, who is missing in the collapse of the I-35W bridge.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

The program is a small one -- 36 students is a capacity enrollment --- and everyone knew the friendly 23-year-old woman with the lilting, musical voice.

"Each of us got to hold the baby," recalled Michael Donahue, coordinator for the nursing program that is open to "New Americans."

The term "overachiever" can sometimes be used in a derogatory way. More accurately, Sahal was a determined achiever who still observed traditional Somali values, dressed in traditional Islamic fashion and maintained the kind of close relationship with family and elders that is admired, according to Saeed Fahia, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota.

But Sahal had ambition and seemingly inexhaustible energy. Expecting her second child at the end of the year, Sahal still had time to volunteer with Somali Women in Minneapolis (SWIM), a nonprofit neighborhood organization, where she counseled other Somali women on basic health and nutrition issues.

"She was very active, full of life, and she was doing her best to raise her family and achieve her goals," said Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.

Sahal was a 16-year-old teenager when she came to Minnesota in 2000 as a refugee from Somalia. Like many others, she put hardships behind her and looked forward with a fierce determination, Donahue said.

"By the time she got here, she had graduated from Washburn High School (in Minneapolis) and she had the language skills mastered," Donahue said. "Getting certified as a nursing assistant was just the beginning. She was definitely planning to become a registered nurse, but she was going to wait until after the new child was born before taking the next step."

Sahal also leaves behind her husband, Mohamed.