Thousands gather for memorial of exchange student from Pakistan killed in Santa Fe HS shooting

STAFFORD, Texas (KTRK) -- When Sabika Sheikh was placed through an exchange student program, she became a student at Santa Fe High School.

The 17-year-old gained American friends for life with her host family. They even fasted with her to support her during this holy month of Ramadan.

Her host mother Joleen Cogburn said, "On Mother's Day, Sabika gave me this prayer shawl and the people of Pakistan hand made it for me for Mother's Day just to show how much they love us. And love our family and love America."

Sabika left her family in Pakistan last August through a study abroad program run by the state department.

It was set up after the September 11 attacks to bring students from Muslim majority nations to the U.S.

She dreamed of becoming a diplomat for her country.

"Even through her death she will continue to be a diplomat because even in her death she is pulling the relationships between Pakistan and the United States, specifically the Houston area, even closer," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

She was expected to return home to Karachi in just a few weeks for Eid al-Fitr, a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

Her family in Pakistan says they are mourning the loss of the other students and unable to come to terms with how and why this could happen.

"She was the most intelligent, bright, mature woman who wanted to do so much while in America," said her uncle on the phone from Karachi.

A token of the hope Sabika represents was given to the Consul General of Pakistan.

"I will make sure this reaches her family as a memento for the love, respect, support that has come to her today from all of her American friends," said Aisha Farooqui, Consul General of Pakistan Houston.

Her warm smile and loving personality brought two countries together, and two cultures.

With such a young life senselessly cut short, it leaves everyone wondering what amazing bridges she might have built. "She loved us and was the most amazing person I've ever met," said her good friend and host sister Jaylen Cogburn.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.