A Pakistani exchange student is among the 10 people killed Friday in a shooting at Santa Fe High School in the state of Texas.
Sabika Sheikh was to return home to Pakistan for Eid al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to the Pakistan Association of Greater Houston on Facebook. The eldest of three daughters, Sabika, 17, resided in Karachi, reported Geo TV in Pakistan.
She had been in the U.S. under the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program since Aug. 21, 2017. She would have returned home when her program ended next month.
“She came to the U.S. to learn, to experience, to share and to bring back to her country all the knowledge she acquired during her exchange,” wrote friend and fellow exchange student George Lapadat in a tribute on Facebook.
“She was young, vibrant, happy and super excited to go back to her country. She was going to return in a few days. She has done an amazing job of being an amazing ambassador to her country here. She has volunteered in her community, she was involved in lots of activities and she created a lot of lifelong friendships,” Lapadat said.
“But she died today in the horrific Santa Fe, Texas, shooting,” wrote Lapadat, a Romanian exchange student in the Future Leaders Exchange Program through the U.S. State Department, who is living in Lakeville, Minnesota. “Her family and friends will never get to see her again. When she left for this trip, she was supposed to be gone for 10 months. … but now she is gone forever. And if this is not enough to prove that something is wrong and something needs to change, I don’t know what else would be.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his condolences Saturday to the family and friends of Sabika.
“Sabika was in the United States on the State Department-sponsored Youth Exchange and Study program, helping to build ties between the United States and her native Pakistan,” Pompeo said in a statement.” Sabika’s death and that of the other victims is heartbreaking and will be mourned deeply both here in the United States, and in Pakistan.”
Her family was reportedly bereft in Pakistan.
“It is still so very hard to believe that [Sabika is dead],” her father told Geo News. Geo reported that the family could not reach Sabika by mobile phone after hearing about the shooting following iftar on Friday. The consul-general in Houston confirmed that the student had died.
“It is with greatest sadness in my heart that I need to inform you that one of our YES students, Sabika Sheikh of Pakistan, was killed in the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas,” wrote Megan Lysaght, program manager for the Kennedy Lugar YES program.
“Please know that the YES program is devastated by the loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers,” Lysaght said.
There were approximately 7,015 students from Pakistan in the U.S. in secondary and higher education in 2016-2017, a 14 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, a junior at the school, opened fire before 8 a.m. at Santa Fe High School, according to law enforcement. Ten people were killed, and 10 others were wounded. Pagourtzis has been charged with murder.
Cynthia Tisdale, a teacher, was among those killed, her family confirmed. Tisdale was married for nearly 40 years and had three children and eight grandchildren, her niece Leia Olinde said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the suspect, who is being held without bond in the Galveston County jail on capital murder charges, originally intended to commit suicide following the shooting but told law enforcement officials after he was arrested that he didn’t have the courage to go through with it.