So Many People Turned Out For The Funeral Of Sabika Sheikh, A Pakistani Exchange Student Killed In Santa Fe Shooting

In light of the 22nd school shooting this year, the Houston-area community has come together to mourn the loss of one of its victims, Sabika Sheikh. Sheikh was a Pakistani exchange student spending a full academic year at Santa Fe High School, where she and nine others on Friday, May 18 were shot and killed by a classmate.

After careful planning from the Islamic Society for Greater Houston, Sheikh’s funeral was held in a Houston-area mosque. The service was open to the public and mourners quickly filled both the main hall and a prayer area for women at the mosque; however, it was not enough to hold the estimated 3,000 individuals who came to the funeral, according to NBC News.

Many spread to the outside patio, lawn, and adjoining playground, watching the service on available televisions.

Sheikh had lived with the Cogburns, a Houston-based host family, during her exchange program. Members of the family spoke at the funeral, remembering her with love.

“I always told her, ‘Sabika, you have a warrior's heart.’ She wanted to be a business woman who wanted to impact the world,” said Joleen Cogburn, the host mother, according to CBS News.

Sheikh’s host sister, Jaelyn Coburn, spoke to the close relationship she had with Sheikh. She reflected on a recent night they shared together, when Jaelyn was crying because Sheikh would return to Pakistan soon.

 “She leaned in and said, ‘I love you and I miss you.’ Even though we were always together, I don’t know why she said she’d miss me,” Jaelyn Coburn said.

Sheikh’s father in Pakistan, Abdul Aziz Sheikh, learned of the shooting while watching the news at home. He sent his daughter numerous messages, yet received no response. It wasn’t until he called the exchange program that he heard the news of his daughter’s death. Sheikh was a student of the Youth Exchange and Study program, which allows students from countries with high Muslim populations to spend an academic year at a secondary school in the U.S. Sheikh had started school last August, and was set to return nearly three weeks after the shooting.

Sheikh had a close bond with her host family and high hopes for her future. She told her host mother, “I want to learn the American culture, and I want America to learn the Pakistan culture, and I want us to come together and unite.”