Going through the pictures of the siege (which I have forced myself to do daily in honor of those lost and those who survived), I see horror and fear that cannot be erased. These lives are changed. These souls face months and years of recovery, flashbacks and fear. All these tangible responses alongside the less tangible but undoubtedly shifted lens to the outside. How to make sense of the classmate who does not return to school, or the empty desk at work, or the missing askari at one's favorite shop? Tangible and intangible, terrorist is the perfect name for these perpetrators. While we must not honor their purpose or fight fire with fire, the sad truth is they have succeeded in wreaking havoc.
Often, when I'm writing about my time in Kenya, I shy away from the hardest of stories or daily realities of living alongside poverty in a still-evolving post colonial society. I do not want to dishonor my second home, a country that has welcomed me in and accepted my work and energy with open arms, by telling stories that would discourage others from visiting. At times like this I am compelled to write - to tell the story, to try and communicate how intimately connected to this shifting paradigm I feel, to try and process something that is virtually unfathomable. Words can only do so much to tell the true story after all. As I try and connect the dots, I cherish those who upon hearing the news of this attack reached out immediately, even though I am now in the US. Somehow, they understood what it might mean, how terrifying it was to try and track down friends who I knew could be there. As Sudarsan Raghavan so eloquently articulated a few days ago, it could have been me.
Reviewing photos from the attacks, the one below stood out. The woman in the center is an American friend of friends, and is thankfully ok. I find this picture represents both the terror of Saturday's attack, alongside the beauty that is the city of Nairobi. Here are three people who are some mix of different races, religions and nationalities, holding each other up in response to those who use terror to seek control. I find so much hope in these three people, as excruciating as it is to attempt to understand the fear they must have been feeling. As I meditate on this photo I appreciate the words of a Muslim victim at the end of this video: "our religion preaches peace, understanding and humanity." Most do - and in that way we are one.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News
In war, we must align ourselves in a way that prioritizes peace above all else. How else can we do this than to walk arm and arm with our differences, turning our back on those who place terror above the possibility of peace.