Peshawar Massacre: A Boy Who Died and a Boy Who Got Away

Aamish Salman loved cars and went off-roading with his uncles.
Aamish Salman loved cars and went off-roading with his uncles.

Pupils are returning to a school in Peshawar that witnessed a massacre last month in which more than 150 students and teachers were killed.

A mother who lost her son and a mother whose son is returning to school gave the BBC harrowing accounts of what happened that day, and what life holds for them now.

Some readers may find some of the following details upsetting and graphic.

Samya Salman’s son 14-year-old Aamish was killed in the attack. She describes what happened that day and how she finds the strength to carry on.

It was a day like any other and we were busy getting ready for my sister’s wedding.

I had no idea about anything until my cousin called me in a panic asking me where Aamish was and whether he was in school or not. She told me to put the TV on and I saw that there was an attack on Aamish’s school.

I couldn’t comprehend – I thought they must be keeping them hostage.

We searched for him all day: in hospitals, in the park behind the school, in houses near the school, everywhere. We couldn’t find him anywhere.

At 16:30 that day my husband called: “Just rest your mind,” he said, “I’m bringing the body back home.”

It was because of the the injury on his finger that we knew. My brother-in-law recognised him from a cut he got a few days ago, but there was a massive hole in his palm from a gunshot. His face was fine, mostly. One bullet entered through his jaw and exited his neck.

‘I’m late for school!’

I had wanted Aamish to take a day off from school so he could come with me as I was shopping for my sister’s wedding but my husband said he would be missing too many school days. He got Aamish up for school, slowly stroking his hair till he woke up.

I asked Aamish to have breakfast before he left, but he said: “How can you ask me to have breakfast when I’m late for school?”

But he had breakfast and ran out of the door in a hurry. How was I to know I would never see him again?

He loved sports and maths. And the family loved him. He used to hang out with the neighborhood kids. He used to go off-roading with his uncles. He was getting into hunting too and loved cars.

He lived so large and I believe he lived his life to the full these last few years. He loved music too. He used to come into my room, put on his earphones, and listen to this song, called “Just Don’t Cry”. I used to hate that song. And now I listen to it and sense that he was trying to tell me something.

‘I have his shoe’

A friend of Aamish’s said he saw him run out of the school but then he stopped and ran back inside the school. I don’t know why he would run back in. Maybe he went to save someone. I don’t know what he was thinking. One of his teacher’s said Aamish came back into the auditorium and they shot him then.

They shot him on his left side nine times. From head to toe. He probably didn’t even have a minute to breathe and understand what was happening.

I have his shoe. They have blood clots in them. But I don’t want his blood wasted. I want change in Pakistan.

I have a 10-year-old son who goes to another school but now I would never consider putting him in this school. My daughters are in the girls’ section and they don’t want to go back.

I still see Aamish running around. When I’m alone, I can’t think. I think I will go mad. But then I think of Allah. And I will ask him to give me strength.

We need a lot of patience. All us mothers. But I hope our government realizes what has happened. I hope they do something. In today’s Pakistan everyone is just thinking of themselves. If we don’t fix ourselves and take care of each other, our enemies will always find us to be an easy target.

‘We have no answers’

The authorities tell school principals to secure their schools and to safeguard the children. What are they supposed to do? Should they start teaching children in schools how to defend themselves with guns. Should they teach them how to pull the trigger instead of the alphabet.

I recall my childhood. Things were never like this. I never saw bombings. I remember one bombing when I was in third grade. But now, it’s normal to discuss death. Our kids discuss death all the time. And we have no answers for them.

Interview by the BBC’s Shaan Khan.

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