Lahore is a part of my best childhood memories. Lahore broadly means fantastic food, fun nights out, incredible excited people and amazing shopping. Growing up, Lahore also meant amusement parks and gaming arcades. My father’s favourite story is about my obsession with the carousel at Joyland since before I was old enough to sit on it by myself, so they had to tie me to the horse with my mother’s scarf. Joyland’s teacups, dodging cars, ferris wheel and of course the carousel literally defined my childhood. My first time on a roller coaster was at Jallo Park on a dingy questionable ride with my cousins. The rush and excitement are unforgettable. When my uncle took us to the newly opened Sozo Water Park the mere sight of the enormous pirate ship fashioned like Genie (from Disney’s Aladin) was enough to make my baby brother throw a crying fit. My parents prayed that we would not notice when they drove past City 2000, otherwise several hours and endless tokens would have to be spent on the rides and games. I think it is obvious why Lahore was my preferred holiday destination for all those years.

I still remember each of these places and the fun we had. I recall the exhilaration as we drove there, the delight of a day well spent at the park and the disappointment at being dragged home by my exhausted parent. What I don’t recall is the fear that I may not make it out alive. The worst of my parents’ anxiety was that we would spend too much money there, not that they would lose us forever. Misplacing my mother for a few moments sent chills down my spine, but I would certainly never worry about being left motherless by the end of the evening. Unfortunately, today these unimaginable scenarios are a reality for way too many children of Lahore. I do not want to quote or even think about the exact number of the children who went to Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park to have the time of their lives and never got to experience the disappointment of leaving. These children are not statistics. They are priceless treasures lost in the most horrifying and tragic way.

The heartless didn’t just murder people in Lahore, they slaughtered childhood itself. They ripped Pakistan’s battered heart out and shred it into a million pieces. I am far away from Lahore and I refuse to look at the pictures of the aftermath but I can vaguely imagine how it must have been. The scent of fresh popcorn must have been replaced by the unbearable smell of blood. The sound of chatter and giggles would have turned into painful cries and heartrending wails. Festivities of Easter and excitement of the weekend turned into horror and mayhem. I cannot bear to imagine beyond those general descriptions. I do not have the strength to envisage the grieving mother’s broken heart, the helpless father’s agony, the wounded orphan’s panic and anguish, or the haunting loneliness of ruined families.

It would be an understatement to say that Pakistan has seen far too many tragedies. In a cover story in August 2010, Newsweek called us “The World’s Bravest Nation”. That was before our children were massacred in front of their friends in Peshawar, and before even more of them were reduced to unidentifiable dead bodies and pools of blood on a festive holiday in Lahore. During the reign of terrorism we have lost our security, our peace, our lives, our dignity and our reputation. At home we have died at the hands of terrorists and we have been termed terrorists abroad. Regardless we continued to power through with hope and strength, until now. This is it! We have run out of resilience. All those children who have died were the hope we were surviving on. Our hope has been targeted and killed in cold blood. Our school books are drenched in blood. Our playgrounds reek of charred young flesh. They cannot call our innocent children martyrs and expect us to feel better about it. We are wounded, heartbroken, devastated, destroyed and inconsolable. Stop saying that our spirits are high. Stop praising the victims for their bravery. Schools and parks are not battlefields and we definitely did not sign up our young ones for combat. The future belongs to the children of Pakistan, many of whom are already a grim part of our recent mournful past. We grieve their smiles, their mischievous eyes, their wit, their grand dreams, even their failures and follies. They deserved a chance to live and to grow, and most pertinently to go home unharmed from school on December 16, 2014 and from the park last Sunday.

Stop praying for strength for us to bear these losses. We cannot possibly accept any more strength. We demand security, we demand peace and we demand the right to live. Since our children have lost their fundamental right to life, life itself has lost all significance.