What I’m learning from the Westgate attack

1. The veneer of normality is exactly that: a veneer.

Yesterday, in the National Museum, round the corner from the Westgate mall, Michael and I watched some great documentaries as part of the StoryMoja Hay Festival. As we left Ford Hall a little before 1pm, MIchael received a text from our dear friend, Richard Crompton, about gunshots at Westgate and to avoid it. We rushed to Twitter to follow the unfolding surreal drama. 

2. We can’t really handle much outside of normal. We’re control freaks and things we can’t predict or control are scary.

The festival continued in a cloud of unreality, accompanied by blasting sirens and buzzing helicopters. Seeing Aleya stay strong and inform the festival goers that the night was ending early – while struggling to deal with the news that her pregnant friend had been shot and killed, and then hearing Peter Godwin describe post-election violence in Zimbabwe, was more than I could handle. Michael and I returned home to cuddle the kids, eat chocolate and watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show/ In The Thick Of It – and try our best to avoid the world outside of our little flat. At the very least the awful news that was coming in via our smartphones.

3. It’s not over yet.

So here we are, more than 24 hours after it all began, and people are still trapped inside the mall. Friends who live near Westgate could hear gunfire this morning, helicopters are still zooming around, and Twitter/Facebook remain the source of fear and hope. Westgate is the one place we are guaranteed to meet a dozen or more friends in passing, which is the main reason we avoid it for date nights.

4. We are all going to die, and have no idea when.

Since life is the longest thing we’ll ever do, I won’t say that life is too short. More than ever, I’m reminded to live in the moment, and live a life full of love and laughter – not anger, frustration or hate. It’s crazy that HSM are speaking about paradise and God, while doing this. They are so disconnected from God and all other living beings, that they can easily kill others. The #KOT messages of peace and love in action are really heartwarming, and as more bad news comes out of this weekend, I hope all of Kenya can hold onto this over the coming days and weeks.

5. My friends and family mean more to me than chocolate or Jake Gyllenhaal naked.

I have spent the last 24+ hours glued to my phone, texting, messaging and calling friends. Scanning Facebook walls to see that friends are ok. The relief to get a message, or hear a voice is overwhelming. And the messages from friends and family overseas have been so welcome. These virtual ‘hugs’ mean so much right now. Really feeling the love.



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