Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Kallar Kahar bus crash: The children are gone, but their memories remain

Kallar Kahar bus crash: The children are gone, but their memories remain

Published: October 2, 2011

A man examines the debris in Kalar Kahar. PHOTO: FILE


The Kallar Kahar bus accident may soon fade from public memory, but the incident remains fresh for the parents and students who lost friends and loved ones in the tragic crash.

Muhammad Maqsood, a resident of Diyal garh village, lost his 11-year-old son Aun in the accident. Aun had been a student of Millat Grammar School since he was three years old.

Maqsood explains that he was apprehensive about sending his young child on the trip.

“My wife and I were not willing to send Aun on the trip, but he was always a brilliant child and very adventurous – he succeeded in convincing us to let him go. I dropped him to school myself that day.”

Maqsood adds that in spite of his wife’s misgivings, Aun was excited about his excursion. “Aun bought a camera especially for the trip. He told his siblings that he would bring back photographs of the trip and antiques from the area for them.”

At this point, Maqsood breaks down.

His equally emotional wife Zarena, a school teacher, says, “I had the option to provide free education for my children at my own school – yet, I preferred to get them educated in an English medium school for the sake of a better future at the expense of our meagre resources.”

Unable to understand the grief of her parents, Zarena’s four-year-old daughter sits in her lap and continuously asks where her brother is.

The survivors speak

Rehan Shahid and Faizan Shahid, two tenth grade students who are siblings, suffered injuries in the bus crash but lived to tell the tale.

Rehan explains that in spite of the stuffy conditions of the bus which had no air conditioner, the students were excited and chatted happily through the bus ride. But then things went horribly wrong.

“On our return, as we were passing through Kallar Kahar, our excitement turned to panic when the man sitting in the driving seat suddenly started shouting and saying that the brakes of the bus had failed.”

The accident itself took place, according to Rehan, within seconds of the panicked announcement.

“We were simply stunned in the beginning, but soon all you could hear was people crying and screaming,” Rehan says.

Escaping the bus

“I was somehow the first person to get out of the bus, without even knowing how, really. I found myself badly wounded.” Rehan at this point immediately called his parents, informing them of the accident, barely conscious.

“It was the first time in my life that I had seen so much blood spilt and so many students around me just crying. I don’t know when I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I found myself on a hospital bed. This was when I remembered Faizan had also been on the bus with me.”

The ordeal continues

Rehan recalls how he started asking the medical staff where his brother was and looked around his bed for a familiar face. The staff told him that Faizan was also wounded, but safe. He was told that he would be discharged soon.

Coming back home, however, was an ordeal in itself. Faizan and Rehan returned physically safe and sound, but they remain psychologically traumatised.

“We had embarked on the trip in the happiest of moods, but we came back amidst a terrible nightmare of wounds, blood stains and shrieks – memories which I will never be able to rid myself of. I don’t ever want to go on a school trip again,” Rehan says.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2011.

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