When the nightmare unfolded, teachers and students of the Army Public School Peshawar had just returned to their classes after recess. Some students, including 18-year-old Yasir Iqbal, gathered in the large auditorium and were attentively listening to a lecture.
Others sat at their desks, eyes on the clock instead of the blackboard, silently urging for the hands to move faster for the day to end so they could go home. In grade one, it was six-year-old Khaula’s first day of school. She was overjoyed that she had finally joined her siblings instead of staying home. It would be her only day at school.
Khaula’s would become one of the 144 names—most of them children’s—on a long list created by a group of murderers that day at the school. The incomprehensibly high body count combined with the vulnerability of the victims make it the most horrific attack in Pakistan’s history.
And while this number, 144, is a story unto itself, the 144 stories within it have to be told.
Eighth-grader Uzair Ali saw the attackers and leapt to shield his friends by lying on top of them. He was killed; shot 13 times, but he managed to save his companions. Fourteen-year-old Fahad Hussain opened a door so his friends could run out. He stayed by the door making sure everyone was evacuated. He was gunned down while doing so.
Below are 144 accounts, of courage and sadness, of children, women and men whose absence will be forever painful, always remembered.