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A Day of Disaster

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March 11, 2008. I was yawning in English class and cursing my insomniac sleeping patterns. 9:26 am, the clock read. Four minutes left for the period to be over. Just then, a loud noise was heard. Tremors shook the school building. My first instinct told me that it was an earthquake. A second later, another explosion was heard. Now I knew what was going on; it was a bomb blast.

Before being properly able to register what was happening, I along with a swarm of students headed towards the school grounds. The teachers told us to get out of the school premises, in case the whole building collapsed. Just then, I saw it: a giant, black mushroom cloud, looming hundreds of feet above our heads. I gasped, and was immediately overtaken by a fear unknown to me before. My knees were about to buckle, but somehow I found the strength to keep going.

The streets were jam-packed with people who came out to see what had caused the commotion, and their reaction was similar to mine. After the teachers considered the situation under control, we went back to the school premises to await the arrival of the parents to pick-up their children. I saw many tearful faces, full of fear and expectations for the worst. Some feared for their families, others for themselves. My own friend grew hysterical, as she laughed out loud at how ridiculous the situation was. However, we all knew how she really felt. Scared ... no, terrified.

I tried comforting a fellow class-mate; while I was still too shocked to take in the situation. The landline of the school was dead and the teachers were using their mobile phones to make calls to the parents. They all had lists of contact details of the parents. This caused a fresh new fear to be born inside me. My parents never picked up any unknown numbers, and they obviously did not have the contact details of every teacher in the school. Does that mean that my parents wouldn't come to pick me up till 1:30pm, the standard home time?

A flood of tears overflowed my eyelids, as I refused to accept the consolations and reassurances of others. I wanted to go home, and I wanted to be with my mom. In vain, I tried to calm myself down, but I was in panic-mode and nothing made sense anymore.

"Kashaf! They're here to pick you up!" I heard someone shout. I couldn't believe it. With joy and relief running through my entire body, I ran towards my car, as the driver greeted me.

The minute I stepped in my home, I embraced my mother in a bear-hug, letting a fresh pool of tears flow. I switched on the television, to know what had happened. There had been twin bomb blasts: one in the building of the Federal Investigation Agency (a government office) and the other occurred in a house in the residential area of Model Town, Lahore, dangerously close to my school. This was the work of two suicide bombers. I then saw, that a spokesman for Edhi Foundation (one of Pakistan's biggest ambulance service) was being interviewed by the media. "The death toll is expected to rise sharply. Some people died on the spot from impact. We are still trying to recover bodies from the debris." His words were forever engraved in my mind.

I was only twelve years old, then. We all hear about bomb blasts on the news, and after a moment of sorrow for those who experienced it, we forget all about it. However, when you experience it first-hand...well, you truly understand what the fuss is all about.



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