When we think about fighter pilots, we seldom ponder over the numerous dangers they encounter and how they put themselves at risk in the line of duty. You might think that fighter pilots have it easy, but the truth is, you just never know when the lives of their families turn upside down.
Sarah Shafqat’s father was a fighter pilot in the Air Force, who passed away in a plane crash back in 2010. Life has never been the same for her.
Sarah, who was living in Turkey at the time, woke up that day with a strange and unsettling feeling.
She knew deep down in her heart that something terrible was going to happen. She made a phone call to her mother that morning, just to make sure that everyone at home was okay. But she refrained to call her father in the office because she didn’t want to disturb him.
“I said my prayers and went to attend my lecture. In the middle of the lecture, my mobile phone started to vibrate. Looking at the screen, I was confused to see the defense attache’s (a post in the embassy of Pakistan in Turkey given to an Air Force officer) number flashing on my screen. A few seconds later, a message displayed on my screen saying that beta, please attend my call sent a chill down my spine and I started praying that whatever it is, may it not be related to my family.”
“I opened my father’s chat window to see his “last-seen” which was 2 hours ago.”
When Sarah left her department building, she felt a grip on her arm. The Defence Attache calmed her down and took her to the car. On the way to the dorm, he said, “Beta apke baba ka plane crash hua hai, but unko kuch nai hua. He is injured and in the hospital so we have to send you back to Pakistan.” Sarah grabbed her passport and necessities and within minutes she was on the road to the airport.
“As soon as I sat on my seat,” Sarah continues, “I started calling mama. The plane was about to take off when finally, she picked up my call and the only question I asked was that baba theek hain?”
“I heard her crying and saying that he is not with us anymore. Before I could respond to that, the plane took off and the signals were gone. I didn’t want to believe her, how could I?”
All the way, Sarah was getting flashbacks of her father. “Bahadur bachay rotay nahi hain” was one of his most repeated sentences. “Everything was so perfect. The eat well and study hard talks, there were all there. All of a sudden, they were gone. Baba, how could you?” she said.
“Whatever he learned during his training to become a fighter pilot, the strength, the patience and the spirit of sacrifice, he always tried to instill them into me. He was not just my father, he was my best friend, my mentor, my savior, my motivation, my inspiration and my reason to work hard in life”.
Sarah often thought, who do I strive for now? All these dreams that she was striving to achieve weren’t hers, they were her father’s. Her dream was merely to see him happy.
“Whenever someone mentioned my name in front of him, he felt proud. Anyone could see the sparkle in his eyes that would appear by hearing my name”.
“Kaash is one word that I am left with. I wish I made that one last call to him. I would have been able to speak to him one last time.”
“Time, my friends, is a very cruel thing. If you want to speak to someone, call them. You never know if you will get this chance tomorrow or not.”
The mental torture, anxiety, and depression that Sarah spoke of are overwhelming. Most of the torture came from the people she thought are her “family”. However, she feels satisfied that the veil has been finally lifted and now she can manage to survive on her own, with the teachings of her father that he left behind for her.
“He would bring me presents, even before the results of my exams would come. Because that’s just how he was. He always rewarded me for my hard work. My mother would always ask him that why are you bringing her gifts? We don’t even know yet if she has passed or not. My dad would say, ‘Because I know she will.’ That’s honestly what always kept me going.”
Sarah claims that even though this was the biggest loss of her life, she is proud to be known as the daughter of a shaheed and that we should always try to be there for our loved ones, as we never know which moment would be the last.