LOS ANGELES – Hundreds in this city, home to the world's largest Iranian emigre community, gathered Sunday to mourn friends and relatives who died in a devastating earthquake in southern Iran (search).
About 500 people attended the memorial service at a community center in Los Angeles, where a third of the nation's 277,000 Iranian immigrants live. Many lost loved ones in the Dec. 26 earthquake (search) in Bam, Iran, that killed about 35,000 people.
Some read poems in Farsi (search) and others urged for more donations to help quake victims during the service, which was videotaped to beam into Iran by satellite television.
Among the mourners was Behzad Behzadpour, a popular singer who left Bam four years ago and now lives in Huntington Beach, Calif. with his wife and two children.
He estimated that he and his wife knew about 180 victims of the magnitude-6.6 quake.
"It's been a very, very difficult time," Behzadpour said through a translator. "All memories of my life were made in that city. I'm very sad."
The earthquake leveled much of the city, which has been inhabited for more than 6,000 years.
"We lost children, we lost parents, we lost grandparents, we lost friends, and we lost a part of our national identity," said Sadegh Namazikhah, president of the Iranian Muslim Association of North America (search).
The association has raised more than $800,000 in pledges through a telethon. On Sunday, a steady stream of people stopped by the community center to deliver checks and drop off blankets, clothing and toys.
"Everyone has helped, and I'm so thankful," said Behzadpour's wife, Lila. "It makes you feel less alone during this very sad time."