KARACHI: Abdul Aziz learned about the US school shooting in which his 17-year-old daughter was killed on CNN, with the story airing live as he broke his Ramadan fast thousands of miles away in Pakistan.
In those chaotic first moments of confusion and terror he called his daughter Sabika Sheikh's phone over and over.
She did not answer.
"I kept calling her and sent her messages on WhatsApp. Never before had my daughter failed to reply," Aziz told AFP, fighting back tears at his home in the southern port city Karachi today, just hours after he and his wife had their worst fears confirmed.
"We are still in a state of denial. It is like a nightmare," said Aziz.
His wife sat nearby, visibly still shocked and seemingly unable to speak as friends and relatives tried to comfort her.
Sheikh, an exchange student at the Santa Fe High School in Texas, was killed along with nine others after a heavily armed student opened fire on his classmates Friday.
It was the latest school shooting to rock the US, and came just three months after the massacre in Parkland, Florida in which 17 people were killed, sparking an unprecedented grassroots, student-led gun control movement.
In Pakistan, the Santa Fe shooting has unleashed an outpouring of sympathy and horror over the tragic murder of Sheikh, who had been in the US for 10 months and was just weeks away from coming home.
Sheikh, whose father said she had always excelled in school, had nurtured dreams of serving in Pakistan's foreign office.
She had been due to return to Karachi in time for Eid al-Fitr, one of Islam's most revered holidays, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in which families come together and celebrate with days of feasting.