“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

–Khalil Gibran 

It is said that all wounds heal with time. But that’s not true. Some wounds may seem to heal but the pain is always there; nestled deep inside the soul and stinging the heart with an ache. The APS (Army Public School) massacre is such a wound that can never be truly healed, or forgotten.

On an unfortunate morning of December 16, 2014, a devastating terrorist attack hit the country. This time the target of these coward terrorists were the innocent little children of Army Public School, Peshawar. Yet again the terrorists painted their hands with the blood of precious lives. Yet again we all witnessed the massacre by these weak and ruthless murderers. Yet again Pakistan mourned over the withering of blossoming buds.

Some were having their exams. They would have prepared and toiled hard to achieve success. How would they know that some of them were not going to see the sun of tomorrow, let alone the brightness of the future? Some of them were watching a demonstration of first aid from paramedical staff but who knew some of them would not get time for any aid and would die an instant death. Some of them were enjoying a farewell party celebrating the achievement of one important milestone. Who knew some of them would never live long enough to have their degree. How many dreams and hopes were slain that day?

Mothers who clad their children in uniforms had to wrap them in white kaffans. Parents who dreamt of seeing their children grow strong had to lay them under ton of soils. The lifelong yearning, prayers and hardship of parents bore the little fruits in their gardens. The terrorists just took a second to destroy what the parents yearned for for years. In the morning there was a roll call in the class to check the attendance of the students. And then in the evening there was a roll call again to check the dead bodies of those students. What a calamity!

It is estimated that a total of 1,099 students were present in the school. Approximately 960 students were rescued by the valour and strategic professionalism of the responding Pakistan Armed Forces. The students who got injured were reported to be 121. Whereas the death toll reported was of 150 including 134 children and school staff members.

The reaction of the nation after the attack was a stronger one. The government and the public from all walks of life condemned the attack and severe anger was exhibited against the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) who took the responsibility of this attack. The international community also stood in cohesion with the mourning nation. It was a national tragedy that drenched the hearts with pain and sorrow as a three-day mourning period was observed. An immediate action by the government and the Armed Forces of Pakistan followed the attack. A series of candlelight vigils was witnessed throughout the country. People from every walk of life participated in solidarity with the departed souls.

For the last decade we had not been able to eliminate these terrorists from our homeland because of the advocates and the non-aligners which resulted in a difference of opinion regarding handling of the prevailing situation. But after the attack the whole nation resolved to fight these terrorists and keep their children, their future safe.

Two years have passed since that tragedy. The memories of the pain have not erased from the minds of those who endured. The families of the victims who lost their young ones still remember the precious ones they lost. A number of pupils endured injuries in the attack and got bullet wounds. Some of these students have undergone extensive medical treatment and recovered. Some have even been left with temporary or permanent disability.

These students of the APS Peshawar are the real heroes of our nation. They witnessed their friends and their teachers die in front of them. They watched the horrors of the gory massacre and the grim darkness of death. But yet these students faced the grisly reality and firmed their resolve for attaining education. Stepping back in that school after it was reopened on January 12, 2015 was not easy. The hall, the classrooms and everything of the school was a constant reminder of the day it was painted red. General Raheel Shareef, then Chief of Army Staff, himself attended that day’s morning assembly to uplift morale.

Salute to these students and teachers who became the very definition of courage and bravery. Courage is not the absence of fear but to go on regardless of that fear. These students now not only attain education for themselves but also to honour the ones they lost.

A monument is erected in the school to commemorate the shuhada of the massacre. The monument has names engraved of the lost angels. And over this wall is a sculpted flock of iron birds taking flight soaring to greater heights. The beautiful monument to honour the victims is not only a reminder of the occurrence but also symbolises hope. One word that comes to mind in relation to the APS Peshawar School is hope; hope for a better future, hope for an educated Pakistan, hope for a safe haven, hope for the darkness to eliminate, hope for the light to prevail, hope to set free from the bondages of violent extremism, hope for unity, hope for faith, hope for discipline, hope for a prosperous Pakistan and hope for life.

This scar is a proof of the battle we have been through; fighting for more than a decade and sacrificing precious life. The students who lost their lives that day and those who survived are the peaceful warriors of this battle; and hold the torch of hope for victory. Their light will shine in our hearts forever.