The helicopters continue overhead. We returned to Nairobi Sunday around 2pm, and it was strange how normal the streets seemed to be. But yesterday afternoon we got messages from the children’s schools, the embassy, etc– more details of who among the classmates or expat community are injured, missing or dead. We’re now getting more details of what’s happening in the mall we frequent probably close to once a week–usually on weekends. The enormity of what’s actually transpired is becoming more clear. We’re somber and concerned. Not concerned so much for our immediate personal safety–but we’re more than just a bit stunned by how easily that could’ve been us, scrambling to hide inside the Nakumatt store or sheltering our children from gunshots.
A fourth grader from ISK (my son’s school) was injured–two gunshot wounds in the leg. I just found out her mother and brother are dead. My colleague/friend from work–one of the only other Americans at my office with two young children–was caught inside and apparently went into hiding inside Nakumatt with his family. Somehow they escaped and got out Saturday afternoon. We’ve received a directive to “shelter-in-place” and so we have. My office is closed today. Only essential personnel are to report to the embassy. Even though the schools are open, the situation outside seems to be very tense, and we live so close to Westgate–we kept the children home with us today. One of my biggest fears would be getting separated from the children, and I’m glad they’re here now. Until today they still thought it was a robbery. But then it dawned on me that my son will be back at school and talking to all kinds of kids, and counselors will be doing interventions, etc, and I wanted him to know it’s a bigger deal than that. He said he doesn’t understand why the robbers are still inside because he thought robbers just want money. I spared him the details, but let him know it wasn’t just a robbery, that many people were hurt (including that 4th grader), that some died, and the Kenyan army, the U.S. and Israel are all here to help–that’s what those helicopters are about.
—Rhonda Fleischer is Cultural Orientation Coordinator at RSC Africa (Resettlement Support Center Africa), which is run by Church World Service.