WASHINGTON - American people have been holding candlelight vigils in various cities across the country for the victims of the horrific Peshawar school attack in which 148 students and teachers were gunned down.

Students in particular have organised memorial meetings at universities and schools in various cities. 

In Los Angeles, the parents of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was killed in 2002 in Karachi, visited the Pakistani Consulate and signed a condolence book, according to US media reports.

“Today, we are in worse shape than we were 12 years ago,” Ruth Pearl, the mother of the slain reporter, told Pakistani officials and members of an interfaith group that attended the event at the solemn event. 

“Let’s hope that can be changed.”It is the norm, you get accustomed to it,” Judea Pearl, the father who is a Computer Science professor at University of California in Los Angeles, said, referring to the spate of brutal killings by terrorists. “You get accustomed to read about it in the newspaper or see another video, it becomes part of our life. You forget that it wasn’t normal. But they managed to make it a normal part of brutality. Brutality is penetrating our bloodstream without us knowing.”

Pakistan Consul General Hamid Asghar told the gathering the time for pacifism has past, echoing sentiments that have come out of Pakistan since the attack.

“I fear we have been brought to a point where the eradication of this vermin is the only way forward,” he said.

Judea Pearl said he recalled Pakistanis reaching out to him after his son was murdered, and felt a strong obligation to repay their kindness.

“I remembered such gestures helped us in our tragedy, made us feel like the world is with us in the sense that the world is making a step not to allow it to continue,” he said.  “But the world did allow it to continue. But at that time it felt like a turning point, and every grieving family should feel that way. That the sacrifice made was a turning point.”

In New York, the Pakistani Consulate General held a day-long memorial meeting on Friday where Consul General Raja Ali Ejaz briefed them on the situation and the government’s response to meet that challenge.

In Dubuque, in the US state of Iowa - the incident was especially affected one high school exchange student.

A few songs, candle light and some simple prayers surrounded 15 year old Ali Samoo, even though he’s 7000 miles from home, according to a local newspaper.

Samoo said, “Here in Dubuque, a lot of people are so good and people have showed me so much respect. And so much help.”

Samoo and his friends gathered in Washington Park to draw local attention to the grieving families in Pakistan.“This could have happened here,” Melissa Pfeiffer, one of those present said. “Families around us and our community could have lost their kids and their moms and their sons.”

Samoo says he doesn’t know anyone who was killed in the attack. But stated many of his friends in Pakistan have relatives who lost children in the attack.Samoo said, “The terrorists, do they call themselves humans?”

The US Department of State selected Samoo for a scholarship that allows him to spend a school year in Dubuque. He stated he serves as somewhat of an Ambassador to help improve Americans perception of Pakistanis.

“I hope it shows that people of Pakistan are not terrorists,” said Samoo. “A lot of people here think that anyone from Pakistan has a bomb in his jacket and stuff.”

Samoo says his biggest fear going forward is that parents in Pakistan will now be too scared to send their children back to school. As someone who values education, he believes it’s critical for all students to return to the classrooms.

In her blog in The Washington Post, Islamabad-based journalIst Mina Sohail gave a vivid description of the horror perpetrated at the Army Public School, and wrote, “Were at war with the Taliban, whose agenda is to destabilise Pakistan and create its own State that eschews international rules of logic and humanity. This school massacre is our Sept 11. This time, Pakistanis have come out galvanised to say we will “never forget.”

Force has to be used and the government has now accelerated its attacks on militants.

“For the first time, Taliban apologists have been marginalised. Opposition groups previously viewed as a softer arm of the Taliban have now united with the government, supporting the use full force against these most brutal militants. Pakistan is making no distinction between the good and bad Taliban. Hundreds of civilians have protested outside the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where the chief cleric, Abdul Aziz, has refused to condemn the massacre.

“While the Pakistan government has responded swiftly with executions, it must also adopt a long-term approach that quashes the extremist ideology. Many madrassas in Pakistan preach extreme forms of religion, inciting children with anti-Western propaganda. It will take decades to educate generations of brainwashed children. Religious textbooks in schools and madrassas must be monitored for hate speech and extreme views. Tolerance of minority groups such as Christians and Ahmadis in the country will have to be inculcated from an early age. But in the short-term, executions are being fast-tracked amid a continuing public outcry for a tough response to combat the greatest terrorist threat that Pakistan has ever encountered. Brutal acts of warfare cannot be combated with diplomacy. The untimely and brutal killings of 132 school children have united Pakistanis to demand a concerted effort to eliminate terrorists. We must act now.”