All the emergency experience in the world could not stop rescue workers from the rush of emotions they felt as they recovered children injured and killed at Army Public School (APS).
Like the rest of the nation, the horrific incident that claimed over 140 victims shook these trained professionals to the core.
Families rushed towards the site and hospitals to search for the loved ones—all of them either weeping or fighting back tears. The site of dozens of injured or dead children also got the better of the strongest of the rescue workers.
Rescue 1122 officer Waseem Iqbal, whose two cousins were among the students inside the APS, received a call to move towards the institute to carry out emergency work.
“I knew that my two cousins are inside, but I did not try to rescue only them. We struggled to get to all those who were inside the school. Despite the confusion, I shifted 50 injured people to the hospital,” he recalled while talking to The Express Tribune. Although Waseem was able to save dozens of lives, his eighth-grader cousin Shaheer Shah was among those killed by the brutal terrorists. His other cousin Muneeb was also injured in one of the several explosions.
Hassan Dad, a medical officer, said he has carried out emergency work in dozens of blasts over the last four years, but nothing was as emotionally draining as having to rescue children.
“We have been specially trained for large-scale emergencies, but I could not control myself during the rescue operation,” he recalled. “I was weeping as I could not bear to see the bodies. Children are like flowers,” Hassan said.
When he returned home at 8pm after completing the rescue operation, he was completely spent and did not have dinner as all he could see were bodies flashing before his eyes.
As news of the assault spread through the city, Hassan’s father called him and gave him some words of encouragement by saying the operation was his responsibility.
According to Rescue 1122 Spokesperson Bilal Faizi, the authority has 18 ambulances in Peshawar city, of which 15 were moved to the school.
“We have seen many major incidents over the last few years, but this was the most horrific because flowers were being killed inside the school,” said Al-Khidmat Foundation volunteer Ziauddin.
Ziauddin added when he entered the main hall, he was left in a state of shock as his eyes fell on the bodies of small children. He felt as though the blood circulation to his feet had suddenly stopped.
“All day, the images of victims were flashing before me as we shifted at least 48 injured to the hospitals,” he said. “I was talking to one of the injured children in the ambulance, but he fell unconscious and succumbed to his injuries on the way to hospital,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2014.