Survivor of the bomb blast in Pakistan recollects how it was for students to stand in the middle of explosion.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the look of terror on my father’s face, as he entered my school’s campus, uncombed hair, wearing flip flops – he had surely just been woken by the blast. I think he ran all the way from my house to my school campus, which are about 10 or 12 km apart. The way he rummaged through all the kids, searching for both of his sons among all the others, dozens of faces covered with blood, I think even he would have had a tough time recognizing either one of us. Or maybe just the sheer terror of potentially losing both of us made him see our faces on every kid crying and yelling for help.
People talk about events in life that completely turned their life upside down, pivoted everything to a whole new direction – tragic or blessed, that relates to the nature of life they are living, but for people living within my city in Pakistan, tragedy is a daily acquaintance. We hear death all around us that even seeing it doesn’t surprise us anymore. It is hard to make sense of it but humans have instincts that makes survival possible, and time makes it easier to move on, and so we do.
Numberating every single one of these tragedies won’t be moderate, so I am just going to talk about the events of 18th June, 2012 when a car bomb was detonated close to our school on a bus that was carrying Hazaras students to Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) , and killed four students and injured a dozen.
It was on a weekday as we assembled kids in the backyard of the small campus that we had. I was a Prefect (Class Proctor), it was mine and my fellow Prefects’ responsibility to assemble the kids and do the formalities. I remember vividly standing at the back of the assembly trying to have a glimpse of my younger brother as he stood at the front of his class line, trying hard to hold his laugh as he his friend whispered in his ear. The formalities carried on as usual, recitation of Quran followed by its English translation and a little short speech by the Principal.
I might as well add a tiny interesting addition that in Quetta, many of the schools don’t sing the National Anthem for security reasons. Threats from Baloch Nationalists blowing up the school is apparently more significant than hailing patriotism in early morning.
The assembly ended accordingly and we started assisting the teachers by escorting the kids back to classes. I was in the corridor of the building and was starting to enter the nearby classroom when I heard a loud explosion, windows spattering all around us, dust rising over the building as the kids were pushed away from the walls and spread across the floor.
I don’t particularly remember what I felt at that instant, but I definitely wasn’t scared. Confusion is a more appropriate feeling to define it. As soon as the madness ended, silence spread for a split second before kids frightened up and started rushing towards the door of the class I was standing in. I instantly stopped them and asked them to get against the walls, surprised by my own instincts, me and the teacher looked at each other and quickly helped them curled up against the corner of the walls, away from the windows. At that moment all the stuff we did surely made sense as we were anticipating someone entering the campus and blindly shooting anyone they could find, forgetting about blood rushing over the students’ bodies and the rest. I came out of the class, back to the backyard to see teachers and students rushing towards the corridor to get inside the building, many of them injured, I saw my best friend helping my urdu teacher and as soon as he saw me, he ran towards me, didn’t utter a word and just started touching my face and looking at my all around to see if I was alright.
We stood there silently, too scared and confused to even cry. I guess that was the instant I figured out what had happened. The worse was yet to come. We tried our best to get everyone inside, took off our neck ties and tore up our shirts to just find anything to cover up anyone’s injuries and comfort the younger ones who were crying and yelling for help, that’s when my other friend came running across to me and asked me about my brother. Amidst all the chaos, the thought of something happening to my brother never came across me. I scrambled over to his class, there was no one there, the floor was covered with blood, and that’s when I just sat by the corner, tears pouring over my face. I don’t know how could you possibly define the feeling that you have at the moment before realizing something tragic happening to your loved ones.
I came out of the class and started looking for him in the school building, screaming his name in every class, asking teachers and students if they had seen him, my younger cousin and my brother’s classmate came over to me and told me that he had seen him, he was injured down his throat and that his face was full of blood. I couldn’t possibly believe it. I walked out of the building and came over to the ambulances, frighteningly searching for anyone that could possibly look like him. I couldn’t find him and that’s when my father entered the building, I saw him, more frightened than I had ever seen him before. I walked over to him, hugged him, telling him that I can’t find his son, my younger brother. He pushed me back and started running over to the building, running inside over the shattered glasses, searching for his son in every classes he could find. My brother had survived. He was taken to the hospital by the school van and we were informed later.
The school remained closed off for a month before we could get to see our friends again, but we suffered down deep. We lost some good kids that day and the ones who survived are still frightened by the memories of friends, classmates, and teachers screaming and yelling for help.
Such are the tragedies we have lived through and this is not just my story, but every single person within that city has their fair share of tragedies. To make it worse, the provincial government doesn’t waste a minute to tag and blame all these events on foreign hands rather than dealing with them. This is not the first time and this for sure won’t be the last that the blood of our kin will be spilled, and for what? Just some strategic gains? Or some minor religious differences? Or for national interest? Whatever it is, nothing can balance out the blood spilled in every street of Quetta.