Weeping over Peshawar attack: When news makes a journo emotional

  • Osama Salman, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Dec 17, 2014 20:39 IST

A day after we were reassured that there is some hope in the world — with Australia standing up for Muslims in solidarity during and after the Sydney hostage crisis through Twitter hashtag #illridewithyou — it all came crashing down.

As journalists, we come across hard news everyday, but no news has shocked me more than the attack on the Peshawar school by Taliban gunmen that killed 132 innocent schoolchildren on Tuesday.

Survivors had grim tales to narrate after the massacre.

A hospital security guard helps a student injured in the shootout at the Army Public School in Pakistan's Peshawar. Taliban gunmen on Tuesday stormed the school, killing over 130 children and school staff. (AP Photo)

"When we came out from the back door there was a crowd of parents who were crying. When I saw my father, he was also crying," recalled Jalal Ahmed, 15, who survived the ordeal.

I cried with the parents too, I could relate to every tear that ran down their eyes.

"One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain," said 15-year-old Shahrukh Khan, who survived the attack.

I felt her pain running down my body too. I felt like I was sitting on a chair made of very sharp nails. I was restless and uneasy, and I am numb with grief.

These schoolchildren — all 132 of them — deserved to live. What was their fault? Did they have to pay with their lives just because their parents were part of the Pakistani army? Was it because they had hoped for a brighter future though education?

The attack comes barely days after Pakistan's Malala Yousufzai made her fellow Pakistani youngsters beam with pride with her Nobel prize for standing up to similar extremist elements.

"We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females," Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Umar Khorasani said.

"We want them to feel the pain," said Khorasani.

The children are not Peshawar's children, or Pakistan army's even. They are OUR children. They were OUR future. They were carrying the heavy weight of OUR hopes for a better tomorrow. They paid for it, and so will we. What the Pakistan Taliban did will never be forgotten or forgiven. Schools are considered a temple of education. They are sacred space. Yet, you and I did nothing about it, we simply watched it unfold.

"… They (Taliban militants) came, broke the doors and entered and again started firing," a survivor recalled.

I wanted to break in too, only I wanted to rescue the children who were merely pawns in this dangerous game. But now, my head is bowed down in shame. I want to apologise now.

I want to apologise to each and every person who knows these children. I'm sorry for letting this happen. In some ways, I feel responsible for the inhumanity meted out to these children. I should have stood up and fought these fringe elements. I should have spoken louder; I should have told them that barbaric acts, especially ones that target schoolchildren, will not be accepted.

I should have told them that this is not about religion, and will never be. I should have done something, anything to stop these gruesome attacks. But I could not. I was late, and so were the rest of you.

We are sorry little ones, we really are.

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