One of the eight students killed in the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting on Friday didn't have any family in the U.S., but the community rallied together to honor the 17-year-old's life. Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, spent the past year studying at Santa Fe High School and living with a local family. On Sunday afternoon, The Islamic Society for Greater Houston held a funeral for her that filled a local mosque.
"She doesn't have any family here, but she has all of us and this whole community that is mourning," MJ Khan, president of The Islamic Society for Greater Houston, said during the service, as quoted by USA Today. "We are all there to be her family."
Sheikh's host family, the mayor of Houston, and her Texas classmates attended the service at the Masjid al-Sabireen mosque. It was the first funeral for the high school students and teachers killed by a gunman on Friday. The suspect was taken into custody after a 25-minute shootout with the police.
"I really just want to thank Mr. Sheikh for raising such a wonderful daughter from Pakistan and to [let] her come over here and be a part of her family for the past six months. It was incredible and we loved her."
Sheikh was only a few weeks away from returning home to Pakistan. She had dreams of becoming a diplomat and serving her country, her father told Reuters. Her family plans to hold another service when her body arrives.
The 17-year-old's host family spoke at the funeral, telling the crowd how much they loved having Sheikh in their home. “I always told her, ‘Sabika, you have a warrior’s heart,’” her host mother, Joleen Cogburn, said at the service, according to CBS News. "She wanted to be a business woman who wanted to impact the world."
Her host father, Jason Cogburn, added: "I really just want to thank Mr. Sheikh for raising such a wonderful daughter from Pakistan and to [let] her come over here and be a part of her family for the past six months. It was incredible and we loved her."
The tragedy at Sante Fe High School was the 22nd school shooting in America this year that involved at least one person being shot. Sabika's father, Aziz Sheikh, told Reuters from Pakistan that he hopes his daughter's death opens Americans' eyes to what gun violence does to families.
"Sabika’s case should become an example to change the gun laws," he said, adding: "I want this to become a base on which the people over there can stand and pass a law to deal with this. I’ll do whatever I can."
Worshipper at the mosque who attended Sabika’s funeral on Sunday agreed with her father that America needs stricter gun laws. Abdul Khatri told The Washington Post that he was "aghast" that a Pakistani teenager was killed by violence — not at home, but in the United States.
“People come here because they are told there is peace here,” Khatri told The Post. “You have the right to be protected here. It’s why I came. But to have this happen not in India or Pakistan, but here? We have gotten off track. And it’s been going on too long."
Along with celebrating the teenager's life and discussing gun laws, those mourning Sabika in Texas expressed their condolences for her family back in Pakistan.
“You imagine what it’s like for her parents — all their hopes and dreams wrapped up in this child,” Farha Ahmed, an attorney from nearby Sugarland who attended Sabika’s funeral told The Post. “And the next time they will see her, she’ll be in a casket.”