Going back to school after the winter holidays is usually a drag for any young child, but for the students returning to the exact same building where the horrific Peshawar massacre took place, they have no choice but to put on a brave face and go to school.
In 2010, Newsweek Pakistan launched its first issue with a cover declaring Pakistan as the "world’s bravest nation" shortly after it had been called the most dangerous nation in the world by Newsweek.
Pakistan bravest Nation in the world pic.twitter.com/LWjThU6VLu— Abdullah Khan Dahir (@AbdulahDahir) November 3, 2014
The juxtaposition of living in the world's most dangerous place that is also the bravest nation could not be more fitting for these children and their families who are going back to school.
More than 150 students were killed by the Taliban during the December massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar.
After the attack and threats of schools meeting the same fate by the Islamist terrorists, schools across the country extended their winter breaks. Many schools have since tightened security surrounding their campuses as well.
According to Reuters, an official said 8-foot-high walls were being built around public schools in Peshawar as part of enhanced security, with hundreds of residents volunteering to protect schools.
But parents of the Army Public School are more anxious than others.
“It feels like my son died once again today. When I saw other children going to schools, it reminded me of my son. I went to his room and helplessly sat in front of his school bags and school dress,” said one parent.
In an emotionally charged and nervous atmosphere, parents – some crying – met army chief Gen Raheel Sharif, who had traveled to Peshawar to address them in a private meeting.
He didn’t make a speech as such but individually met worried parents, assuring them that they, i.e. the Pakistani army, would eliminate the terrorists from the country.
But some parents, especially those grieving their children, chose not to meet with him, saying it was too painful for them to go back to the school.
"Yes, I was invited to the function and meeting with the army chief. I couldn't dare to go to the school where my sweet son was ruthlessly killed," said one father.
"And what would I get from meeting the army chief when they couldn't even save my young son and children of many other parents?” another parent said.
There’s no way of putting the trauma of this event – or any of other similarly horrendous events that take place in the world – into a statistic of sorts. More than 150 people died, but how many children will live with the memory of what happened within the walls of APS Peshawar?
They are indeed brave to head back and face the demons of haunting memories.