In Memory of December 16th, 2017

Three years ago, on this very day, Pakistan was plunged into uncharted depths of tragedy and suffering. More than a hundred innocent children lost their lives, and more than a hundred families got destroyed. Along with them, an entire nation grieved.

Now, on its third anniversary, our emotions remain the same. We still feel the same hopelessness, the same despair. We still feel our hearts curling up into a hundred knots, unable to bear the weight of the lives that were lost that day.

As writers, we put into words our emotions, we string together beautiful sentences and heart-wrenching poems that serve as windows into our own hearts. This is our way of venting the fires that burn inside of us.

Today, we do the same.

~

It was a cheerful Tuesday morning,
Flooding rays from a golden sun,
Chirping birds and honking cars,
A new day at school had just begun.

Innocent chatter echoing in the hallway,
Giggling groups getting scolded in class,
Studying diligently, teasing friends,
Smiles through which misery shall never pass.

For a micro-second the world stood still…

A harrowing scream, they couldn’t believe,
Disorder and chaos, they came out to see,
Earth shattering cries, held back all alone,
And suddenly, is he really coming after me?

Masked his face, his eyes doors to hell,
Deafening shots fired,
thousands in the air,
Not soldiers, fallen angels on this battlefield,
Save me God, I’m too young to be here.

Don’t whisper, don’t scream…

Hold your breath my friend, look at those eyes,
There’s violent fear, don’t let it show,
Lie down, or this heart will fall to the ground,
Its pumping out of control, stay low, stay low.

Close your eyes, you are dead,
Close your eyes, it will be over soon,
Close your eyes, you’ll make it out alive,
Close your eyes, this terrifying noon.

In between a wish of dying, and not…

Come out, young one they’re gone now,
Close your eyes, the floors are painted red,
And lying in corners are people you knew,
Hush! Don’t cry! They are in heaven, not dead.

And as the sun sets on 16th December,
The grounds of APS have laughter no more,
Eerie black shadows and numbing silence,
As caskets of their bodies line the floor.

They left too soon…

No tears shall wash away the stains they left,
Plaguing our hearts,
wounds not healed yet,
So, let’s raise our hands in prayer for justice,
Come what may, we will never forget.

By: Mahnoor Fatima

~

            He left the lights on in the bathroom again. It’s a wonder he doesn’t leave the faucet running, praise the Lord for that. I mean, he’s going to turn ten this year; it’s about time he learned to take some responsibility. My frustration began to build up like bricks constituting a wall as I entered his room, only to see his bed not made, his clothes scattered around the floor as if he artfully laid them there, ants attacking an opened bag of stale chips, the computer still making noises from the game he was playing last night. Well, at least now I know why it took me five times to wake him up today. Kashif thinks I’m too easy on him and that I let him do whatever he wants, but I always tell him, “Hamza will go crazy if we’re both restricting him for something he did, the boy needs a balance!” I smile at the thought, and the so called ‘brick’ wall of frustration vanished as easily as the coin in a magicians trick. Poof. I think to make him his favorite lunch for when he gets home from school.

I enter the kitchen, and gather all the essential ingredients. A mere half an hour passes by, and the house is immediately filled with the aroma of spices, garlic, and ginger. The bell rings, and I rush to open the door with a glass of water in my hand. He’s usually out of breath, his face gleaming with sweat, and he purposely pants like a dog. But, when I open the door, it’s Kashif, home early from work again. He takes my glass of water like he was expecting it, and settles in the living room.

A few hours pass by, and Hamza is still not home yet. I begin to bite my nails, only to see raw, chewed on skin. And, I suddenly remember he had an extra class at school today. Here I was, worrying for no reason. I settle down with Kashif in the living room.

****************

It’s almost 7, and I realize I should’ve called the school a while ago. I, immediately pick up the phone to call the principal’s office just as she was leaving, to inquire about my son. She seemed unsure of what to say to me, which provided the fuel that was needed to make the spark inside me grow into a raging fire. What do you mean, you don’t know?

****************

I run upstairs, my mind in frantic, and open the bedroom door so hard it slams into the wall, but Kashif is unhinged.

“Aren’t you even a bit worried he’s not home yet? No one knows where he is!”

All of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. Kashif had his hands around my throat, squeezing the air, the life out of me. I was powerless, I could feel my eyes popping out of my sockets as I sunk to the ground. There was a growing pain in my chest. And that’s when I saw Hamza playing soccer on the field, his feet moving the ball so quickly, my eyes couldn’t keep up. My eyes couldn’t keep up, so I closed them.

****************

Kashif: It’s been almost 3 years since Hamza died in the APS massacre.

Doctor: And, she still thinks it’s you choking her?

Kashif: yes.

 

By: Maham Zeb

~

The APS tragedy, which took place on the infamous day of 16th December 2014, sent ripples throughout the country. No citizen was left emotionally untouched by this fateful event, which took the lives of 144 innocent souls. Three years have passed now, and most of us have moved on and are going about our daily lives. But for some, every day is 16th December. Every day brings back the dreaded memories. Every day scars them. Every day is spent waiting for a child to return home from school.

 

Gone, but never forgotten.

 

Mahnoor Fatima
Maham Zeb
Furqan Alavi
Ishaq Ibrahim

 

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