ISLAMABAD -- Sabika Sheikh spoke to her 9-year-old sister on the phone Friday, counting down the days before she would complete her high school exchange program in suburban Houston and return to the family home in Karachi, Pakistan.
"She told me that in 20 days we will be together," said the sister, Soha. "She had bought so many gifts for me."
Sabika died hours later when a 17-year-old high school junior opened fire at Sabika's high school in Santa Fe, Texas, killing her and nine others.
The 17-year-old Pakistani exchange student was "the lifeline of our family," her father, Aziz Sheikh, said in a phone interview Saturday. The eldest of three siblings from a middle-class section of the port city Karachi, Sabika was a "brilliant student" who had dreams of joining the Pakistani foreign service, he said.
She was to return to Karachi on June 9, and the family was planning to spend a summer vacation traveling across the country visiting relatives. Her father said Sabika was looking forward to observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began this week and is marked by prayer, daylong fasts and family meals.
"She was a great soul," he said.
Sheikh said his daughter regularly placed among the top three students in her classes in Pakistan before she began the exchange program last August. In a photo circulated on social media, Sabika is smiling and wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "Texas."
Sheikh said he learned of his daughter's death after seeing news reports and trying -- again and again -- to dial and text his daughter's telephone. "There was nothing I heard back from her," he said.
Staff members of the exchange program later confirmed to Sheikh that his daughter had died.
The manager of the exchange program, Megan Lysaght, sent a letter to students saying the program was "devastated by this loss and we will remember Sabika and her families in our thoughts and prayers."
Pakistan knows campus violence. Islamist militants who view the country's education system as un-Islamic have targeted hundreds of schools over the past decade, with the deadliest attack coming in 2014, when gunmen killed more than 140 people, mostly students, at an army-run school in the northern city of Peshawar.
Sabika's uncle, Ansar Sheikh, described the Texas shooting as an act of terrorism and pleaded with the U.S. government to take action.
"I don't blame the murder of my girl on American society but on that terrorism mindset that is there in all societies. We need to fight it all over the world," he said.
"I do ask the American government to make sure weapons will not be easily available in your country to anybody. Please make sure this doesn't happen again. It really hurts."
Sheikh said the Pakistani consul general in Houston told him that Sabika's body would be taken to Karachi on Monday.
"She was the lifeline of our family," he said. "Her mother and siblings are in deep shock."
Late Saturday, authorities in Texas released the names of all those who died.
Jared Black's favorite class was art, his family said, and that was where he was Friday morning. He had turned 17 earlier in the week, and he couldn't wait for his birthday party Saturday.
Jared's half brother said he wished he could see him one more time.
"My brother loved to play "Minecraft" on Xbox, play "Pokemon Go" on his cellphone, and loved art," Nick Black said in a statement he wrote with a close friend. "We miss him so much."
Shana Fisher, who was in the art room at the time of the attack, had just turned 16.
"She should be worrying about getting her driver's license, making plans for summer break, maybe start thinking junior year and making plans for college and what she wants to be when she grows up," an aunt, Ericha Fisher Farris, wrote on Facebook. "She should be at home rolling her eyes from fighting with her little sister."
Family and friends called Angelique Ramirez compassionate and funny, a loving older sister with a contagious smile.
"With a broken heart and a soul that just can't process all this right now, I have to announce my niece was one of the fatalities," her aunt, Sylvia Pritchett, wrote in a Facebook post. "Please keep all the families in your thoughts, and hug your children tightly."
At 17-years-old, Christopher Stone was the youngest of his three siblings. But he still played the role of protector to his sisters, Angelica and Mercedez, as if he were the oldest, said his father, who is also named Christopher.
"Being a brother was his best job," Stone said. "He was always there if someone needed someone to listen or some cheering up."
He was a football player for Santa Fe High School. Not the biggest guy on the team, his father said, "but he had lots of heart."
Cynthia Tisdale, a teacher, was a member of Anchor Bible Baptist Church in Pharr, Texas, her family said.
John Tisdale, her brother-in-law, asked friends to pray for Cynthia Tisdale's husband, the Rev. William Recie Tisdale, and their children.
"We never know when our death will come," he wrote. "Cynthia planned on one day retiring and being a full-time grandmother. It will never happen."
Rhonda Hart wrote on Facebook that her daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was one of the victims. Kimberly was a student in first-period art class.
She urged readers to tell their senators and congressmen to push for gun control, and she hashtagged her message with #fightforkim and #oneof10.
Information for this article was contributed by Shashank Bengali and Aoun Sahi of the Los Angeles Times; and by Julie Bosman and Jess Bidgood of The New York Times.
“She was a great soul,” Aziz Sheikh said Saturday of his daughter Sabika. He shows her picture on a phone at their home in Islamabad.
A Section on 05/20/2018
Print Headline: Daughter killed in Texas was a 'lifeline,' dad says