KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Salim and Farida Kathawalla said their daughter, Zahara Kathawalla, quickly made friends after moving to Kansas City, Missouri, for a job in 2019 without knowing anyone in the city.
“Within a few months she loved it,” her father, Salim, explained from Minneapolis.
Her friend group was never more obvious than on her 24th birthday when about 300 people around the world joined together for a celebration over the video chat platform Zoom. The only person missing was Zahara herself.
She died about eight months before her 24th birthday when a car hit her as she crossed Main Street at 43rd Street in June 2020.
Kansas City police said the driver of the car was drunk and racing another car; going nearly 70 miles per hour at the time.
“She was super chill, she never gave us trouble,” Salim remembered. “She lived a life to the fullest and we wanted to keep her legacy alive and when we heard about her news, we were completely broken.”
Broken because their daughter, who loved to travel, who volunteered with children, who woke early every morning for yoga and other self-care routines, was gone.
Races and sideshows where drivers do doughnuts and show off their cars in other ways have gained popularity in Kansas City over the past year.
Earlier this month, Mayor Quinton Lucas proposed an ordinance to curb such events by making three changes: increasing penalties against drivers, allowing police to fine spectators and allowing police to impound cars suspected of being used in races.
“What I don’t want to see is a car spinning out of control and creating new challenges,” Lucas told 41 Action News March 1.
Next Wednesday, March 24, the city’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Operations committees will continue discussions on the mayor’s proposal.
The Kathawallas aren’t convinced the proposal will change a person’s behavior.
They pointed out laws prohibiting speeding and drunk driving already exist. Plus, they said a $100 fine for first-time drivers violating the mayor’s rules hardly seems harsh enough to curb the issue.
They believe it comes down to personal responsibility.
“Any other child who's also killed in this way, it’s a huge loss,” Farida said. “That should not happen, no one should get killed for stupid racing.”
Prosecutors have charged Shabazz Frencher with DWI - death of another not a passenger, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and driving while revoked/suspended in connection to Zahara’s death. She is scheduled to go to trial next year.
From their home in Minneapolis, Salim and Farida feel a different kind of personal responsibility - an obligation to keep their daughter’s legacy alive.
They launched the Zahara Kathawalla Foundation, which raises money to give scholarships to young adults who want to pursue the same passions of Zahara, like travel, wellness and education. They’ve set up scholarships at Zahara’s high school and at the University of Wisconsin business school from which she graduated.
“We are now living with even more vigor keeping her memory alive,” Salim said.
Zahara’s sister launched a website called Zahara Explores Earth as a way to continue Zahara’s Instagram account where she posted pictures of her travels. At 23, she had already visited 40 countries.
The website encourages travelers to leave a small rock painted white with a “Z” and/or sunflower seeds at different places around the world in honor of Zahara.
“She's obviously just being the biggest angel we have,” Farida said.
Now that angel is helping others.