The winter of our discontent is back. The sixteenth is this week, marking a year to the most horrific terrorist attack we have seen in our country yet. The rest of the world and its noise seems to dim when one’s mind goes back to the memory of being fixed in front of the television, the news being near-shouted by shocked newscasters. This week I don’t care about Donald Trump, or whether Farhat Hashmi will be extradited from Canada or how suspicious Tashfeen Malik’s identity card looks. This week we must bear witness, and remember.

It is the pity of our dangerous lives that ordinary people must be heroes. Tahira Qazi, the principal, who refused to leave, rushing from classroom to classroom urging students inside to lock the doors and lie on the ground. She tried to hide in a bathroom; they threw a grenade in.Fourteen year oldUzair Ali, floppy-haired and baby-faced, who flung himself over his friends to shield them, and took thirteen bullets. Teachers including Saeed Khan, who was calming students down and hiding them and twenty-four year old Afshan Ahmed, who tried to stop the attackers from coming into her classroom. They burned both teachers alive. The heart quails, as it should.

This year, winter to winter, has been one where children have suffered the most. From little Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a strange shore, to the scores of haunted children in Kasur. The trajectory of violence has taken children into its sweep and we fail, each day, to be able to do anything to stop it. Surely harming children should be the line nobody should ever cross. Why hasn’t the world made it so hauntingly terrible, so unspeakable, that even the most evil should think twice about taking action that would maim or kill a child? Probably because the world is a vast and terrible place. That there are people, even if they are few in the grand scheme of things but are more powerful and ruthless than millions put together; that those people will stop at nothing to get what they want. That includes the people who carefully planned to attack a school. Who spent time and money on making sure they would succeed. Who stood outside the gates, reconnoitering. They watched children, blazered in green and probably wearing the standard black school shoes, chattering with friends, sleepily trudging along, cramming last-minute from a textbook or hastily finishing a portable breakfast. And then they went in with guns and grenades and petrol, and they looked children in their terrified eyes and four year old Khaula died, Abdullah Ghani Awan died, Ahmed Ali Shah died.

The point here is not to horrify anew, but to remember. It is a human thing, to mourn and move on. It’s the only way we can survive the various griefs of our lives—to allow it to fade a little, to let the edges blur a bit so we can have some peace. But we also immerse ourselves back into our lives, and are swept farther away and so it is necessary to remember, collectively, a day that we all must never allow to happen again. ‘Allow’ is a lofty, idealistic word, particularly in this world of ours where so much is beyond our control or influence. But if we take anything away from the APS massacre and our Dark December, let it be that the children, all of them, must be protected. Let us recognize that we may not be able to save the Syrian children or the Palestinian ones or the American ones, all of whom are being punished for things they didn’t do, or ever had a say in. But we can save ours. We can send blankets and books to the children who, post earthquake, are homeless in the winter. We can teach a few kids at home. We can cook a little extra each week and feed some children. We can pay the school fees for the children of our household help. And most of all, we can teach our own children to be kind. To be empathetic. That the privileged are duty bound to help those without, whoever they may be. To recognize the difference between ambition and greed, to be able to let go of the material long enough to be able to give. For unless we give back, there is no hope for any of us. 16/14 didn’t just happen to those people, over there. It happened to all of us. None of us will ever send our children to school without holding our breath, just a little. None of us will ever be able to see the photographs of the 144 without their heart sinking. That’s good, for it means we care. What the teachers and students of that besieged school did for each other should be honoured forever: they were courageous, and they tried to protect each other. They were people at their finest, at that wicked and tragic hour. They cannot have died in vain. That is one thing we can take control of. We will honour the dead by supporting the living, we will fight back the dark and dastardly by being bearers of light and hope. We don’t need an army for that, we don’t need infrastructure or government support. All we need, and have, is heart.