I spent one night in Pakistan when I was 15.
Stuck somewhere between childhood and womanhood, I was far too young to grasp where exactly I was or how that trip would change me forever.
Pakistan International Airlines had taken me from an airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh (where I had spent the previous ~45 days) and plopped me down in an airport in Karachi. I remember the men with machine guns, the veiled women with frightened eyes.
That night, we stayed in a hotel room and dined on a dish that was made up almost exclusively of curry. We tried on oversized black leather jackets and looked at trinkets in souvenir shops.
The next morning, we flew to NYC. I remember exactly how I felt when I disembarked the plane and saw the American Flag in front of me – safe from the dangers I had felt, but had been unable to describe.
When I woke up today – December 16, 2014 – I saw the devestating news about how the Taliban stormed into a Pakistan school (a SCHOOL!) and killed almost 150 people, mostly children. Inconceivable. Unacceptable. Heartbreaking.
By dismantling schools, the Taliban seek to gain power. They know full well that it is not weapons that change society; it is books. As Frederick Douglass boldly stated, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Without education, the people are shackled.
Let us not forget these children. Let us rebuild that school – and then build a hundred more. Let us celebrate the bravery of these children and these families, who went to school each day against all odds. Let us bow our heads in gratitude for our freedoms here and pass on to our children the incredible gift it is. And – certainly not least – let us grieve for Peshawar.