KARACHI: Every time a Shehzore truck passed outside his classroom window, it would perturb Emaad, who was a teenager studying at Army Public School in Peshawar in the year 2009. It always reminded him of a massive bomb blast that took place in the city but the sight of the armed forces somehow reassured him.
This was the time when the military operation in Swat was in full swing and Peshawar was a hotspot for terrorist activities. The same year, Emaad's father was transferred from Peshawar and he left the school for Karachi.
When the name of his former alma mater flashed across television screens earlier this week, Emaad could not help but remember his teachers, his principal and his classmates. "We were trained on how to reach hideouts during a crisis, how to disperse and in which direction to run in case of an attack," recalled the young man, who is now pursuing his undergraduate studies.
His physical training instructor, Sir Javed, used to teach these things at the Army Public School and College, Peshawar. Today, the instructor is in critical condition as he is one of the survivors of the ruthless attack on the school on Tuesday.
Recalling his school days, Emaad said that there used to be several bomb drills during the operation. "Security was beefed up and no vehicle was allowed in the premises of the school," he said. "Only 10 children were allowed to pass the school's main ground in the morning at a time in order to minimise the casualties in case of an attack."
He also remembers Madam Sahar, who used to teach him Urdu in class six. She had a high-pitched voice, was emotional yet loving. She used to tell him off because of his sloppy handwriting. "She used to say 'Emaad, improve your handwriting for God's sake!'"
One of Emaad's friends who witnessed the tragic incident told him that Madam Sahar used her high-pitched voice when she yelled at the terrorists. "You are wrong in taking innocent lives, she had said," said Emaad. "But her voice succumbed to the bullets that day. Terrorists silenced her voice forever."
The young boy also remembers the time when he bid farewell to the school and met the principal, Tahira Qazi. "She wished me good luck and told me that the doors of the school will always be open for me," he said. "But today, even if I find the doors open for me, she will never be there to welcome me."
He recalled how Qazi used to push him to take part in extracurricular activities. "She made me participate in Oxford Book Review Competition, in which I stood second, and in the Inter-School Math Olympiad, which I won," he said. "She was a motherly figure to me. I never had any fear talking to her unlike other kids of the school."
Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2014.
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