Since yesterday and I’ve been closely watching the #westgate situation on Kenyan TV (thanks to live streaming) and twitter. It is proving to be very difficult to focus on anything else at the moment considering there are still some hostages held in Westgate mall for more than 33 (not 38, typo in previous post draft). As I ordered my coffee in Caribou, I thought of those people who ordered at Artcaffe yesterday – some for the last time. As I wiped the coffee stains off the floor, I thought that someone would soon be given the grim task of wiping blood from the floor of the mall. There was nothing I could focus on and so I did the one Kenyan thing I still do; I went running.
I ran until my muscles went sore, thinking of the mother who was devastated even though her child had missed a bullet by an inch because it bounced back and killed someone else’s child. Then I ran some more. I ran until my sides ached thinking of the pregnant woman who died with her baby and the pregnant woman who gave birth under such stress then I ran some more. I ran until I was out of breath, thinking of the man who had the chance to escape yet chose not to because he wanted to protect other’s children, then I ran some more.
As I ran, I thought of how sometimes we wish we can run away from it all, the bloodshed and misery seeping out of the media, the angry questions we ask ourselves, “What is the world coming to? Whatever happened to humanity? How can people do these things then look themselves in the mirror? How can they look at their own children every night knowing they’ve killed someone else’s child?”
It’s hard to wrap your mind around all that happened. These were ordinary people leading ordinary lives, hanging out with friends, shopping for clothes, savoring the different tastes in the mall’s restaurants. Some might not even have wanted to be there, but they had to because of a business meeting or a Nakumatt job that put a roof over their head or the Junior MasterChef competition that was taking place at that time. One second people were taking pictures of themselves and posting them on Instagram and the next second tragedy struck, and those ordinary people suddenly became extraordinary, holding each other’s hands as they escaped, rolling the injured out in shopping trolleys making sure they were propped on toilet paper rolls to cushion their backs, taking care of someone else’s children even when their own were not in sight (because they were hoping that someone out there was like them and taking care of their children).
So after running for a few kilometers, I stopped. I realized that no matter how hard we try to run away from such heartbreaking news, we just cannot. It’s like we’re running on a treadmill where we start and stop at exactly the same spot. Whether the news happens in Baghdad or Pakistan or Syria or Kenya, it will always hurt whenever we hear about innocent lives lost, so maybe we need to stop trying to run away, and instead learn from those ordinary people who had become extraordinary during this incident; those who waited in line to donate blood, those matatu drivers who didn’t charge the passengers who were going to donate blood, those who already raised 11 million KES for Westgate victims in 6 hours, those who volunteered to make sure the police officers, media people, volunteers are well-fed and well-hydrated, and even those children skating to spread the word….
My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this barbaric attack and those who are still stuck inside. I pray for peace and a world where this senseless bloodshed would stop and instead people would focus on building a more beautiful world empty of wars. And as the President Uhuru Kenyatta beautifully said (despite grieving his own personal loss during this attack as he has lost his nephew in this attack), “We are as brave as the lions on our Coat of Arms.”
So, don’t let these people divide Muslims from non-Muslims because as Kenyans, #WeAreOne.
A last word, @KenyaRedCross twitter handle announced, “Due to public demand we continue with the #WestGateMall Blood Drive tomorrow (Monday 23rd) at Uhuru Park from 9am.” So if you haven’t donated blood, think of the 175 people wounded, one of whom you could save. To Donate via M-PESA to Westgate Victims paybill number 848484.