A school is believed to be a pure place, a ground to worship knowledge. It’s considered a safe haven for children who grow, laugh, live and learn on the premises. It’s a sacred place where every child in this world is happily sent to and for those who can’t, the hope is always there. School is just like a temple of learning, where people are imparted with education and human values. It’s like a furnace where steel is forged.
But what happens, when this temple gets threatened? Students crumble but more than that we as adults fail to play our part responsibly. Our children are growing up in an age where the world is wholly unprepared to deal with the aftermath of mass school shootings, if not prevent it. Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have seen more than 11 deadly school shootings and more than 292,000 students have experienced gun violence at school. Each day 8 children die from gun violence in America, another 32 are shot and injured.
In a wake of these statistics, here are the most brutal school shootings the world has ever witnessed.
Beslan school siege
Beslan school siege in Russia is considered as one of the deadliest school shootings in the world which began on 1st September 2004 and continued for the next two days. More than 1,100 people were taken hostages by the Riyad-us Saliheen Brigade of Martyrs, among which 333 people lost their lives with 783 fatally injured people. Many died after a year or two due to their injuries.
The first day of the school year in Russia, 1 September, is a happy occasion known as the Day of Knowledge. Children wear their best clothes and come to the school with their parents and relatives as the school organizes a special event. Due to this reason, there were more people in the playground of School No 1 than on a normal day.
When the gunmen first attacked, they pushed everyone inside the newly build gym at the school. More than a thousand people were stacked inside a tiny hall where none had enough space to even sit properly. They were forced to stand in scorching heat with no water and food, many of the hostages were little children trapped inside with their grieving parents. In the initial hours of the event, the militants chose 15-20 strong and healthy men from school staff and parents. They were then lined up and sent to a nearby room where they were all executed. The reason behind the execution was to remove any strong force from their mission.
This year marks 16 years since the Beslan school siege, but for the survivors, it felt like yesterday. Aneta Gadieva, her nine-year-old daughter Alana, and one-year-old Milena were among the 1,100 initial hostages. When Ruslan Aushev, the ex-President of Ingushetia came in the second day demanding a release of infants and breastfeeding mothers, Aneta was given a choice that no mother ever wish to have. She had a choice to leave with her infant child in exchange for the life of her elder daughter. Before she could even make a decision, a militant pushed her outside with her one-year-old, leaving behind Alana.
When she found herself outside the school, Aneta tried rushing inside but in vain. For the next two days, she lived in horror and guilt of leaving behind Alana. After the siege was ended on the third day, Aneta got to know that her precious daughter is no more. Since that day, Aneta lives with resentment and grief of leaving Alana behind. The fate has been the same for the rest of the 10 women who too left behind their elder kids.
Funerals were held under pouring rain in the days that followed the event. The body count was so high that a new cemetery was built outside town. This remains one of the deadliest attacks in the history of Russia and humankind.
Peshawar School Attack
The then 15-year-old Syed Bakir Naqvi was in the auditorium when the 7 gunmen targeted the students and teachers of Army Public School. He was hiding beneath a chair in the auditorium of Army Public School when militants entered and opened indiscriminate fire at the participants of the first aid training. He saw an attacker piercing three bullets in the back of his teacher who had bent down beneath the chair in a bid to hide.
It has been 8 years since Taliban fighters broke into a Pakistani military-run school in Peshawar, killing 140 people. Most of them were children. Those who survived emerged with stories of horror they faced on 16th December 2014. The militants struck shortly before 11 a.m when about 1,000 students, mostly students from 1st to 10th grade and teachers were inside. Most of the students were killed in the auditorium as the military collected about 100 bodies from the auditorium alone.
One of the teachers was burnt alive by the attackers. They literally set the teacher on fire with gasoline and made the kids watch in horror. A school referred to as a safe haven for students turned into a graveyard where more the 132 students of the school died at the hands of a nameless terrorist.
Garissa University College attack
The Garissa University College attack of Kenya was the most brutal school attack in Kenya which killed more than 148 people, most of whom were students and almost 79 were injured. The gunmen from terrorist organization Al-Qaeda took around 700 student hostages inside the Garissa University College in the early hours of 2 April 2015. The Muslim students were released however the Christians were directly shot to death. Many of them were shot at the back of their heads along with several beheaded.
The siege ended the same day after 15 hours long battle, with four gunmen shot down by the dusk. The attackers have AK-47s and were strapped with explosives. One of the terrorists self-detonated a suicide vest killing a few commandos. The Garissa assault was one of the most serious worldwide on universities, and the deadliest in Kenya since the 1998 bombings of United States embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, in which more than 200 people died. President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning.