The Lahore that was Chauburji School started routinely with the exception that the usually quiet Sabe-ehuddin was telling everyone that there had been large-scale movement of army convoys past his house that night. The usual good natured banter subsided as our class teacher walked in and sat down. She had hardly begun to talk, when two deafening explosions rocked the school building. The day was September 6, 1965 - Pakistan was at war with India. As I pedalled home, I saw knots of people standing at shops and listening to the news on radio. I joined a group standing at Maula Bukhshs 'pan shop and heard the somber voice of the President making his historic speech to the nation. The seventeen days that followed were perhaps the most critical and glorious in the great citys modern history. While Pakistan Army and Air Force kept the enemy at bay, young and old flocked to the civil defence centres to get enlisted. The Red Cross office on Queens Road was overrun with women vying to get enrolled in first aid and nursing training. There were long queues in front of blood banks and hospitals where men and women flocked to donate blood. Hordes of young men wanting to fight the enemy or assist the army in any way possible had to be turned back by the military police on the road to Batapur. I was amongst this crowd of disappointed youngsters that had to reluctantly pedal back from Harbanspura, but my mind was made up - if I could not take on the aggressor shoulder to shoulder with our army, I would do it at the home front - as a civil defence volunteer. Sitting on top of Fatima Jinnah Medical College and manning the air raid siren was an experience. Across the roof tops one could clearly see the horizon lit up with flashes from our heavy cannon followed seconds later by a rumbling like thunder. Our off duty hours were spent in cataloguing sources of inflammable materials and water in our sector and telephone duty at our Sector Headquarters located in a missionary school opposite Regal Cinema. We would also be tasked to patrol our sector in pairs at night. My partner on these night excursions was a neighborhood pal called Owais. On the first night that we went out, my mother called me and handed over something carefully wrapped in cloth. I opened it and found myself holding a .32 Smith and Wesson revolver belonging to my grandfather. This remained my prized possession throughout the war. Regretfully, rumors factories appeared to be working overtime during this period and we were hard put to sift fact from fiction. The most popular of these was that commandoes had landed here and had been spotted there. Then there were reports of enemy fifth columnists shining search lights to guide bombers from rooftops. None of these stories was ever substantiated and only reflected an active imagination or a planned enemy effort to demoralize citizens. And then we saw real war. It was a routine for the family to move to a slit trench dug up in the lawn, under some densely growing trees, whenever the air raid siren sounded. This day, as we came up to the trench, I looked up and there high up in the sky were some aircraft doing what appeared to be a display of tight turns and loops, with the difference that one could hear a faint rattle of machinegun fire coming from above. From my civil defence training I straightaway spotted two F86 Saber Jets and two strange aircrafts engaged in a dog fight. There right before our eyes the enemy aircraft broke away from the fight with one of them trailing smoke and rapidly losing altitude. We had just witnessed one of the greatest air battles of the war and seen an enemy aircraft being shot down. A scene later immortalized by the world renowned aviation artist Group Captain Hussaini in his paintings of the air war. Interestingly this war divided the citizens of Lahore into two distinct classes - the ones who immediately packed their bags and fled the threatened city and those that stayed put in the true Lahori spirit to face danger head on. This column is a tribute to this latter group. The writer is a freelance columnist.