A Pakistani community in New Jersey is reeling in devastation following the murders Tuesday of more than 130 schoolchildren in Peshawar.
"We are in tears, we are really upset," said Hasim Raza. "This is not the teaching of Islam."
Congregants at a Boonton mosque, almost all of them Pakistani American, have been in touch with family back home.
Pakistani American Tahir Awan said, "They are doing this for what? For heaven? They are not going to heaven, they are going to hell. Islam is the message of peace. Not terrorists."
The Taliban attack on the military-run school Tuesday that left more than 140 people dead, including children and staff members, was motivated by the militant group's war with Pakistan's army, NBC News reported.
About 500 students and teachers were believed to be inside Army Public School at the time of the attack.
"The gunmen entered class by class and shot some kids one by one," a student who was in the school at the time told local media.
Pakistani military sources said six Taliban militants were killed at the scene, according to NBC News. The attackers were wearing police uniforms and suicide vests, a military source told NBC News.
Boonton business owners like Muhammed Khalid checked the news all day, and each time the death toll and the despair got worse.
"It was really, really sad," he said. "Horrific. They killed so many kids."
New Jersey resident Zafar Khurshid said he'd been upset all day since hearing about the massacre.
"I hugged my kids so many times today when they came back from school," he said.
Imam Muhammed Attaullah, the spiritual leader for hundreds of Muslims in Boonton, said in Urdu, the official language of Pakistan, that he will tell his followers to remember the true teachings of Islam: kindness and justice.
More than 100 people are expected at the mosque Tuesday night and on Friday to offer a special prayer for the children and all the victims of the terror attack in Peshawar.
In New York City, a vigil was held Tuesday night at Washington Square Park.
"I think the futility, weakness and sadness we felt when we saw this happening back home was deafening," said Zarnaab Adil, an attendee.
Another vigil is set for 8 p.m. Wednesday in Brooklyn's Midwood neighborhood. Pakistan's consul general and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are both expected to attend the event.