By Areeba Khan.
It started out as an ordinary day. The morning was a typical Kashmiri morning, fresh and bright. A little before 9am however, it was filled with cries amidst dust and smoke. It took years to regain normality.
We were in our classroom, in deep anticipation because our teacher was evaluating assessments. All of sudden a dreadful sound started accompanied by simultaneous trembling. We all started screaming as we saw cracks appearing on walls. The classroom door, our sole exit was blocked. Finally, by some miracle our teacher managed to get us out of the room. We were met with apocalyptic scenes. Huge blocks were falling from the second floor and the water tank was lying on the ground. One student was injured, because a block had hit her directly on her head. Teachers were showing patience and consoling the students. But their eye showcased their fear.
This is the story of only one school; there were millions of schools and colleges, hospitals and houses that were completely destroyed and collapsed, some submerging into mud. A huge number of people including children were buried under collapsed buildings. Many people, children and adults who had left their homes in the morning work, never came back. There was chaos everywhere. Nature had shown that it could be cruel and indifferent in the blink of an eye.
While going through my old papers I came across one poem which depicted the true picture of this earthquake……….
How horrible was that earthquake!
When, it forced the earth to shake.
Under the force of its heavy lash,
Everything was compelled to crash.
Buildings bowed before its force,
Rivers changed their course,
The earth split into many parts,
Causing failure of thousand hearts
Of the people, who had no chance,
Other than to rejoice,
The bitter cup of that inevitable demise.
An ocean of tears began to flow,
A gale of sighs began to blow,
When every mother of Kashmir,
When every father of Kashmir,
Beheld their innocent kids,
Lying on their death beds.
We know not, “What was the cause?”
But it brought life to pause.
It was a devastating earthquake of 7.6 magnitude. The epicenter of this magnitude 7.6 quake was about 65 miles north-northeast of Islamabad, the country’s capital, which jolted Pakistan especially Northern areas of Pakistan including Azad Jammu and Kashmir. It also affected adjacent parts of India and Afghanistan. 86,000 innocent people were killed more than 69,000 were injured and approximately 3 millions of people were left homeless.
It was a very hard and testing time for the whole nation. However, people faced this disaster with ineffable courage and bravery. The whole nation came together. Thousands of people flocked to help their fellow citizens, who had been hit by the worst of the earthquake. A sense of brotherhood and love was seen among the people. Countless people rushed to different aid camps and donated generously and open-heartedly. The great philosopher Maulana Muhmamad Ali Johar seems to have captured the true essence when he states:
“Islam zinda hota hai har karbala ky baad”
(The feeling of brotherhood only awakens after a disaster)
Together with the support of Pakistan Army, the International community, local communities and organizations played a tremendous role after the 2005 earthquake in reaching affected people within hours. They worked endlessly to help those who had lost everything in their lives.
11 years have passed but the psychological and in some parts the visible impact on countless lives still remains. Many people still face sleepless nights because of the ingrained fear. Several people who saw their loved ones dying in front of their eyes cannot forget the horrors of those last moments. But as the saying goes life goes on and the 11 years on, the affected have tried their level best to regain normality however they can.
A silver lining can be seen. The deadliest incident in history of Pakistan saw a massive progress in the region. Huge number of houses and schools are being made with more facilities. Advances technology and machinery has been installed in hospitals. Moreover awareness has now spread among people. Regular training is given on how to deal with these kinds of incidents. A sense of brotherhood now prevails among the people.
Areeba Khan is a research fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. She can be reached at areebakhan