ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Oct. 11, 2013— -- Much of Pakistan is devastated today.
Malala Yousafzai, 16, has given this country and girls around the world hope.
She was the favorite to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but the world was surprised today to find the award went instead to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
ABC News sat with a group of students today at Islamabad College for girls. The school has about 5,000 students, all about Malala's age. They sat in a classroom not unlike the one Malala used to sit in before she was shot in the head by the Taliban for defying their edict on not educating girls.
These girls know they're among the lucky ones. In a country of 180 million, plagued by a militant insurgency, there are 15 million girls who are denied an education.
Just moments before the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, the girls told us how much the teenager means to them.
"She's one of us," one said. "We love her."
"Who else who stands up for us the way she has," said another.
When asked what the girls dreamed of in the future, more than half put up their hands saying they were going to be doctors. Others said engineers. One promised she'd be a software developer for Microsoft.
As the Nobel announcement was made, we watched smiles turn to sadness. We thought we'd see tears, an outburst of anger, and maybe some frustration.
But something unexpected happened.
The girls told us, they didn't care that Malala didn't win. To them, Malala's already a hero. Nothing can change that.
"She may have lost," one told us, "but she's already won our hearts."
When asked how they would console Malala, as if she were in the room, they didn't flinch. One told us she run to her, give her a big hug, say thank you, and ask her to keep on fighting.
"It's okay" another said, "we still love you and need you."