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Mourners Pack Texas Mosque for Funeral of Slain Pakistani Student


Abdul Aziz Sheikh, left, father of Sabika Sheikh, a victim of a shooting at a Texas high school, comforts an elderly woman at his home in Karachi, Pakistan, May 19, 2018.

Mourners on Sunday packed a mosque in Stafford, Texas, about 59 kilometers away from the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School that killed 10 people.

One of Friday's victims was 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student Sabika Sheikh who wanted to learn about the American culture and share her own.

While in the United States, Sabika had two host families.

“We did not have children. She was the first one who called us mom and dad. She was literally like a daughter to us,” said Pakistan American Uzma Parveen, who was Sabika's first host mother.

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Friends said while in the United States, Sabika experienced American culture, including going to prom. They said she had big dreams and her interests ranged from being a diplomat to being a businesswoman.

“She wanted to be everyone and the only regret that she wanted to be famous. Not like that. I don’t want to see her picture on the TV like that. I don’t want to see that she was one of the victims,” said a tearful Parveen.

Also attending this funeral is Gerri Manlove, the local coordinator of the American Institute For Foreign Study Foundation's Academic Year in America program. She remembers texting Sabika the day of the shooting and never getting a response.

“She and two other students and a teacher hid in the classroom. They found a closet. But the boy found them,” Manlove said.

The "boy" is accused gunman Dimitrios Pagourtzis, a 17-year-old student of Santa Fe High School. He was arrested and charged with capital murder and aggravated assault against a public servant.

The coffin of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, May 20, 2018.
The coffin of Santa Fe High School shooting victim Sabika Sheikh, 17, is carried during her funeral service in Stafford, Texas, May 20, 2018.

“If anybody listens to me, I have only one appeal. Please do something. No children should be taken away from parents. It hurts. Believe me, it hurts. One metal detector could have saved her. Just one,” Parveen said.

"Have a metal detector like you have at the airport. Have the kids wear a uniform or something similar to a uniform -- something where you can detect that they’re not wearing trench coats and so forth," Manlove added.

Manlove said Sabika was looking forward to going home in a few weeks, at the end of Ramadan.

“When she started Ramadan and started fasting, my family did that with her because we did things together,” said Jason Cogburn, Sabika's second host father who spoke at the funeral.

“She was the most beautiful loving person I’ve ever met,” said host sister Jaelyn Cogburn, who was close to Sabika and remembered crying, knowing Sabika was going back to Pakistan soon.

Abdul Aziz Sheikh, center, father of Sabika Sheikh, a victim of a shooting at a Texas high school, shows a picture of his daughter in Karachi, Pakistan, May 19, 2018.
Abdul Aziz Sheikh, center, father of Sabika Sheikh, a victim of a shooting at a Texas high school, shows a picture of his daughter in Karachi, Pakistan, May 19, 2018.

​Dignitaries who attended the funeral included Houston's mayor as well as federal lawmakers, who presented an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to Sabika's family and accepted by Aisha Farooqui, the Consul General of Pakistan in Houston.

The families and friends touched by Sabika said knowing her has changed their lives permanently. For that they are thankful to her parents in Pakistan.

“Thank you for sharing such a wonderful daughter with us, with me and with Rashad. Thank you so much. We are with you in your grief. We are not going to be the same people anymore,” Parveen said.

After the funeral, Sabika's remains were flown back to her home in Pakistan.

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