When the bomb on Fane Road detonated in October 2009, outside the FIA building, I was in class. It was around nine thirty a.m, and I was teaching English to thirty eighth-graders. There was a dull fwoomp, a kind of heavy explosive sound. Because I grew up in a Lahore where bombs never went off, the first thing that came to my mind was “it’s probably a transformer exploding”, and that is what I said to my instantly-terrified girls. It didn’t work, because they were young girls who were growing up in a different city than mine. “We’re going to die!” wailed one of them. I’ll never forget the strained silence, my words, trying to be bracing but falling hollowly as we went into emergency mode: leave your things, make a line, file out. Don’t run. Some girls clutched each other’s hand as they made their way down the stairs and out into the ground. Many years later, after the 2014 APS shooting, my own children learned their own emergency drills: get under a desk, away from a window, how to barricade their classroom door.

Last week saw the worst school shooting since Sandy Hook in America—seventeen children and adults dead and five in critical condition in hospital, in Florida. It is a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting thing to have happened, a tragedy intensified by the fact that the main suspect is also a teenager, a former student who had been expelled for bad behavior. It is notoriously easy to buy a gun in America—the gun lobby is so strong that there are next to no checks or regulations when it comes to purchasing a firearm. Obama’s presidency still had some mental health preliminaries, but President Trump has overturned even those, and now a teenager can buy a semi-automatic rifle and gun down other children, and nothing changes.

Why does a school shooting in America affect us, some may wonder. It doesn’t, not in a direct way, one supposes. But as a parent in a danger zone, it hits home. The thought of sending your child to school and something unspeakably horrifying happening is one that is not alien to us, and neither is it to an American parent. On two ends of the world are children who are learning emergency drills and in both governments are people who think arming teachers is the way to solve the problem. The parameters are different—there, it’s the complete lunacy of the gun lobby, here it’s terrorism and nobody can put in place policy to control that. But what is depressingly similar is how it’s the children who are vulnerable. How children suffer, all over the world, from the mistakes and greed and follies of the adults.

You don’t have to be a parent to understand how urgent and vital it is to really think about the world we are creating for our children. Everything we do now is going to make their lives that much better or worse, and it’s not more complicated than that. Lahore’s air quality, for example, is amongst the worst in the world. Respiratory disease has been skyrocketing these past few years, and children aren’t just getting sick, they are dying. Our landfills are getting higher, polar ice-caps are melting, the world is getting hotter. Where are our recycling initiatives, our carpools, our tree-planting drives? Where are our pressure groups to regulate the antibiotics and hormones dairy and chicken farms use, or the kind of pesticides being sprayed on our vegetables? Food, air, health: these are just the basics. We have so much work to be done, and so little time—not just our own lifespans, but also the time the planet has before it is too late. But we can start with safety, at least. Breathing the toxic air, eating the genetically-modified wheat, wearing the pesticide-sprayed cotton clothes, bathing with water coming from pipes far too close to sewage ones—at least let the children be physically safe. At least let them have a childhood free of fear. My four year old has never been to a school without an armed guard at the gate. That’s a far cry from my school days, when only a thin, stately old man everyone called Lala stood between us and anyone who wanted to storm the school gate.