I wasn’t in Westgate Mall when terrorists took over the building, but I could have been. It’s my favorite mall. The one I usually go to whenever I am in Nairobi. I love its global feel. I love the free wifi at Arts Café (my happy place). I love the posh atmosphere. After spending time in Kenya’s more rural mountains, Westgate is always a little piece of paradise.
The last time I was there I ate spinach ricotta lasagna. It was heavenly, the first real cheese I’d eaten in three months. I caught up on emails, watched the adorable little Indian girls sitting at the table next to mine, and soaked in the buzz of life happening around me. I went to Nakumat and bought chocolate bars for my co-worker, Alyssa, as a peace offering for leaving her to take care of the kids while Ruthann and I went into the capital to take care of visa issues. I bought cute little toothbrush holders for the kids and wandered the supermarket aisles feeling like I was back in the US wandering the aisles of Target.
When I think of Westgate I think of culture, beauty, mango smoothies, family outings, and movie theaters. Now I’ll always think of grenades, gunshots, children screaming, and people jumping from the upper floors in order to get away from the terror.
I can’t wrap my mind around the thought of all those families trapped in the mall—a simple family outing turned into a tragic nightmare. What is the point of attacking a mall, killing children, and destroying a place a peace? It’s been four days now. We are still waiting to hear how it is all going to end. Every time I read an article about what is going on at Westgate the death count is higher.
What if it had been me sitting there enjoying my spinach ricotta lasagna when the gunshots started? What if it had been me when they asked the hostages to recite an Islamic prayer or be shot? What if it had been me taking one of the kids from the children’s home where I work on a special treat into town? I can’t imagine being unable to protect my child from terrorists with grenades and guns. I can’t imagine how those mother’s felt last Saturday when they had to live through hell.
What kind of person targets a mall? What kind of person attacks children simply going about their day? It’s heartbreaking. Yes, they created terror but for what? It’s sickening just to think about it.
If it had been me, I pray I would have been strong—strong enough to forgive such evil, strong enough to help those weaker than myself. But, it wasn’t me. I’m here safe in my rural mountain home away from the chaos, away from the pain of hundreds of families aching for their loved ones. But, I am not untouched even here far away from it all. My heart hurts for Kenya, for the injured, for those planning funerals, for those whose memories are forever scarred by choosing the wrong day to go to the mall.