PESHAWAR — Shahana Khan had to wake her son up on the morning of December 16. He was late for school and she had to push him out the door. He was one of the 132 students who didn’t come home.
“I cry all the time thinking I told him to go to school. I opened the gate for him,” mourns Shahana.
At this time she would normally be making him breakfast: “I feel him in the house all the time and hear him. People say it’s just in my head but for me it is very real. I hear him say ‘please stop crying mom’.”
Not far from Shahana’s house, 15-year-old Baqir Khan is getting ready to go to school on this cold winter morning. He survived the school shooting but his mother who was a teacher was killed, among the 13 non-students who died in the Taliban terro attack on the military school.
“I miss my mother," he said. "I was saved because she always prayed for me."
Today Baqir's father is taking him to school.
Security at the school is high. The blood has been cleaned away and parts of the school have been repaired and repainted. But the main auditorium hall where most of the children were massacred remains closed.
Students and parents gather and pray. They remember those who are gone.
Regional coordinator Azra Yasmeen Paracha encourages the parents to continue sending their children to the school: “Being Muslim we have to continue to keep the candle of education burning," Paracha tells the gathering. "To pay homage to the martyrs we have to keep this unity. Soon the enemies of education will be eliminated.”
The students then move off to the classrooms.
Mohammad Anas has steel rods in his arm that is hanging in a sling. “I was shot twice in this arm. I lost 17 classmates. I want to forget it but it is really hard," he says. "I don’t want to go into the auditorium. The school feels very different without my friends.”
Malik Tahir Awan, lost his elder son Usama Tahir in the attack. Today he is here with his surviving son, Hassan.
“Hassan is now feeling better. He has been having very bad dreams and can’t sleep properly. We have to motivate him. I play tennis with him every day. Today he was willing to visit the school and meet the others who survived,” said Malik Tahir Awan.
Hassan says he misses his brother. “When I go near the hall or the auditorium I feel him. I am not scared though. I will keep studying and I will avenge my brother’s death when I join the army.”
Standing nearby is Mohammad Amir he is looking off into the distance: “I can’t forget the scenes which keep coming to my mind again and again. Today I came to school to see how many of my friends survived.”
Fahad Ali, 14, hurries to catch the school bus home. He says his parents were worried about sending his back to school, but he insisted. “I want to fight against the terrorists. I don't want to let them take away our pens or books.”