Pierced by a mother’s grief

May 31, 2013

Gujrat, Islamabad

By Faisal Mahmood

It was my day off, but for some reason I’d woken up early. As I was about to have breakfast with my wife and children the phone rang. It was my picture editor. A school bus had caught fire in Gujrat, 100 miles from Islamabad. Seventeen children were dead.

As I gathered my cameras, I could not stop thinking about how the parents must have sent their children to school after sharing the same kind of breakfast we’d just been having at home. I was dreading what I would find.

It took three hours to reach Gujrat. A large crowd had gathered near the charred remains of the bus. I saw three lunch boxes discarded on the ground. I couldn’t help but think about my own children’s lunch boxes, which I sometimes prepare before dropping them off at school.

Not far from the scene I found a house belonging to a teacher, whose three nephews had been killed in the tragedy. The teacher herself had suffered serious burns while rescuing children from the burning bus. Inside, I found a woman sitting between the coffins of two of her children, her hands placed on top of the small boxes, wailing. Her grief seemed to cut through my soul.

I stayed in the house for an hour, and found myself covered with sweat. In spite of losing three children in the fire, the mother noticed my discomfort, and called out to a relative to give me water. In a nearby house, I found a similar scene. Women had gathered around the coffin of a thirteen-year-old boy — decorated with the kind of garland usually reserved for a groom during weddings.

Though I have covered the aftermath of many bomb blasts and other terrible incidents in Pakistan, there was something about the mothers’ grief that pierced me in a way I had never experienced before. With my pictures filed, I was profoundly grateful to return home to my family. And I will never forget what I saw in Gujrat.


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Really sad incident – My heart and prayers go out to those families who have lost their world.
How difficult it is when you concentrate very small details like lunch boxes – books – shoes, and very same time reminding of your own children while covering the incident – very emotive accounts of grief and tragedy.

Posted by SOOMRO | Report as abusive

Its a fake story. All these pictures are not of gujrat. It seems author in expert in writing fake stories. Can he/she proove that these pictures are of india. Why dont author writes real stories about hindus being treated like slaves in pakistan. Hindu girls kidnapped , raped and converted on a regular basis in pakistan. shame on pakistan. and shame on pakistan media for promotin disharmony.

Posted by shishir3 | Report as abusive

This is not a fake story, contrary to the foolish posting by shishir3, who has only themself to blame trying to make this a Hindu story for no reason at all. This is a true and touching story that took place on 25 May of this year. So sad, and so hauntingly retold by the journalist.

Posted by johannesg | Report as abusive