The Black Day
I was born in 2007, in Peshawar, a city in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. My mother is a housewife and my father owns a grocery store. When I hear my parents talk about money, it does not seem stressful, so I don’t worry. I have my own worries.
Waking up has always been hard for me. The sun is always so bright, and it shoots into my eyes if I do so much as crack one lid open, so I like to keep them shut. I don’t care so much if I miss school, because I would get to play outside like most kids my age do. Still, I always surrender to the stern voices of my parents. They want me in school and since I am the only child, they expect much from me. Just know that I never liked school to begin with, studying is not my cup of tea, and neither is getting out of bed each morning.
My city of Peshawar is known to be dangerous because of the Taliban. People talk about the Taliban with large eyes filled with fear. I have often heard the elders talking of their flawed beliefs, about the fact that the Taliban condemns education, and about their horrible plans. The Taliban wants to create martyrs who spend life preaching religion and will kill every man who comes in between this. They slaughter innocent men in the name of religion.
The people of the Taliban call themselves Muslims, but even I know that they are not. I am Muslim, and I know that our religion teaches us to be kind and just. They are not Muslim. They are beasts hidden under human skin. I have been told not to talk defective of them like this, or else I can be murdered. But I am not afraid anymore. I have given up on being scared and terrorized.
December 16, 2014, I woke up with the sun in my eyes at my usual time, 7 am. After blinking away the urge to fall back into my dreams, I changed into my school uniform. My mother packed my bag as I had my breakfast, while my father waited on me to finish because he drops me off to school on his way to the store.
My mother kissed me goodbye and asked me what I would like to have for lunch that day. “Fries,” I told her. They are my favorite.
Though I do not like going to school, once I’m there, I love the subject of history. I don’t have to put very much effort into remembering dates and reasons and places. I think this is why my teachers tend to like me. I remember my teacher that year, in 2014. She was the most considerate person ever. She was always very nice to me and to her students. Other teachers were too, but they were a bit strict. She was different, though. Her face was kind and I liked her class, even if I didn’t like being there. She was the best second grade teacher.
School started at 8 am exactly, followed by the morning assembly and then classes. We moved to our classrooms as soon as the national anthem was over, and took out our English books for our first lesson. Although the subject was a bore to me, I managed to show some interest, unwillingly, and waited for the lesson to get over so that I could chat with my friends.
But then we heard gun shots and people screaming. We got frightened. Our teacher closed and locked the classroom door and told us to stay silent. We were trapped. We were clueless about what was going on. I remember I started crying and so did my other friends because we knew the school had been invaded and we might never go home again.
I looked outside the window and saw something I can never forget. I saw students who were drenched in pools of blood, and I saw masked men who were shooting randomly and impulsively, causing more students to fall. I recognized many of their faces as they laid there, and as they fell. I was numb and petrified and I was certain I was going to die that day.
Anxiety was in the air we breathed as the screaming and the gunshots did not stop. We could feel that the invaders were killing everyone. We could not tell at that time how many were there, but they were equipped properly and were certain on leaving no single body alive.
Teachers are our guiding light, but in that moment, I could see that our English teacher was helpless too. She asked us to take God’s name and we did.
The gunshots and the screams got louder and louder. I knew that the invaders were coming for us when the shots became nearer and louder. The invaders were yelling, I do not know what they were saying, but it was frightening.
And then, two men burst into our class by breaking our doors and shooting aimlessly. I can’t explain to you the kind of terror I felt, being so close to the pop and fire of their long, black machines. Our teacher was the first to be gunned down. I tried not to look at her body. We hid under our chairs and tables to save ourselves, but my class fellows who sat in front of me lost their lives. I tried to close my eyes, but I heard the sounds of their death. I waited to hear my own.
But then there were a few seconds of silence. I wondered if I was still alive. The invaders had left our class to go to the other one, and the shots began again. I laid there, still fearing that they might come again for us. My heart beat fast in my mouth.
I told myself to be brave. I looked up from behind my desk to see who was alive. I saw my friend who sat across the room, and signaled to him so he knew I was okay. I wanted to tell him that it was going to be alright, but he could not see me through his tears, and I didn’t really know if it was going to be alright, so I laid back down. I laid there for hours listening to gunshots and small blasts until they stopped.
When the rescuers came into our classroom, nobody moved. They called for us, but no one spoke. My entire body was numb. The scene was horrid. There were dead bodies everywhere. We were carried and taken out. On coming out of the school, the sun pierced my eyes but I did not blink. I watched the string of my bloodied classmates and teachers grow smaller and smaller as I was carried away.
That was the Black Day. I do not want to recall it again. I was numb and absent-minded. I do not remember what happened afterwards.
There were 1099 students and staff registered in the school. On December 16, 2014, 157 lives were lost, out of which 120 were those of children.
It is now known as the Peshawar Attack, the fourth deadliest massacre conducted.
The terrorists thought they could crush our morale and enthusiasm by conducting such a gruesome act, but we did not let them do that.
On December 17, 2014, I woke up at 7 am. I put on my school uniform, and both my parents drove me to school. They did not think twice about it. I didn’t either. I knew why I was going. I went to show them that we were not losers. We would rise again. We were stronger than this.
Upon reaching the school, though our school was no more a school, rather a barren land, we saw that every child who survived was present. All their parents were present. We sang the national anthem like we used to, we sat in the classes like we used to. Classes which still had fresh blood. Classes where just a day before, my classmates were being gun downed for pathetic reasons. Together, we turned over the desks, one by one.
I miss my friends. I miss them every single day. The invaders thought they could win by doing this, but little did they know they have made us nothing but stronger. I want to study now and make my family proud.
December 16, 2014 is considered the Black Day in Pakistan, the day when hundreds of children lost their lives by the hands of the Taliban. Those who survived got lucky, I being one of them. I am not a survivor, I call myself a fighter. That is what I am, a fighter, and I am not scared anymore.
This is the story of Khalil Khan
When Khalil was in second grade, his school was attacked by members of the Taliban, resulting in 157 deaths, many of whom were his classmates. Khalil is now 12 years old, studying in the same school with higher spirits and a goal of becoming a police officer who will one day bring justice to the whole nation. His favorite food is fries, and he is doing well in his studies.
Life Log #253
This story first touched our hearts on October 25, 2018.
| Feature image source: Department for International Development |
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