Santa Fe Shooting Victim’s Body Returned Home to Karachi after Houston Funeral

Sabika Sheikh

Sabika Sheikh

HOUSTON: Sabika Sheikh, a 17-year-old Pakistani scholar participating in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) student exchange program from Karachi, was one of the ten people killed when a teenage classmate, armed with a shotgun and a revolver, opened fire in Santa Fe High School on May 18, about 38 miles south of Houston.

To honor Sabika’s memory, more than 2,000 people gathered Sunday for the funeral service at the Masjid Al-Sabireen mosque in the Brand Lane Islamic Center in Stafford, according to The Houston Chronicle. When the mosque’s indoor spaces filled up, people took off their shoes and kneeled in the grass and on the mosque’s cement walkways, even though a steamy rain had started to fall.

“We found out about the shooting from a local TV channel and tried, but failed to contact Sabika and her friends,” Sabika’s father Abdul Aziz, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper, while adding that they then contacted the YES program coordinator, who confirmed the news of their daughter’s death, “after a four to five hour delay.”
According to her father, Sabika — the eldest among three sisters but younger than her brother — was due to return home on June 9. Her family had been counting the days till her return.

Described as a brilliant student by her father, Sabika had completed her matriculation from Karachi Public School. She was an honor roll student at the Santa Fe High School. Sabika wanted to be a diplomat when she grew up.

In Santa Fe, Jason and Colleen Cogburn served as Sabika’s host parents. The Cogburns have six children of their own. Jason and Colleen spoke at the funeral, along with their daughter, Jaelyn, who was one of Sabika’s best friends.

On Mother’s Day, Sabika gave her host mother a prayer shawl handmade in Pakistan. Just a week later, Joleen Cogburn wore it to cover her head inside the mosque as she remembered Sabika’s life.

“She wanted to be a part of what we did, and we wanted to be a part of what she did,” Jason Cogburn said. When Sabika began fasting last week for Ramadan, he said, the whole family started fasting along with her.

“She was so loyal to her faith, her country and she only had good things to say about everybody. She loved her family. She couldn’t wait to see them, and she loved us,” Jaelyn said, according to ABC News.

As the memorial service concluded, the casket was transported to the Bush International airport for the flight to Karachi via Turkish Airlines.
From Islamabad, US Ambassador David Hale called Sabika’s family to offer his deepest condolences. In Washington D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his condolences in a statement, saying that “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.”

Aisha Farooqui, Consul general at the Pakistani consulate in Houston, said in an official statement that the US State Department had sent them official confirmation of Sabika’s death in the Santa Fe shooting.

M.J. Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, issued a direct challenge to the high school kids in the audience, urging them to follow the path of the teen survivors of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, who have spoken out nationally for gun control.