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When I was studying journalism, I really looked up to John Allan Namu and Mohammed Ali for the investigative journalism they were doing. Their work was commendable! I think it is because I have a drive for solving mysteries, a keen eye for details and finding out the truth. But then I am also an anxious-wreck, and that’s just the most paradoxical combination ever. The time I realize how right I was to not pursue that adrenaline thrill is when terrorist attacks happen. I panic. People get sad. People get angry. People get frustrated. People get killed. I panic. Now I remember when the West gate attack happened, one of my classmates joked about how i’d die without being shot if I ever were in a terrorist attack. Die because of the horror rather than any other kind of harm. Maybe get a cardiac arrest then boom! I’m gone (God forbid). Now imagine if I were covering such a horrible event, I would probably end up being the journalist -not the victim-who ended up with PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder). How ironic would that be? Going to a therapist all sad and petrified and she asks me gently, ‘where exactly were you when the incident happened?’
‘Oh me? I wasn’t inside the building. I was in the neighbourhood covering the story.’
‘Did you get hurt?’
‘Did you get to see any of the terrorists?’
‘Did you know anyone who was inside?’
She stops scribbling, tilts her head and looks at me from above her specs.
‘Well that doesn’t make sense.’
‘Exactly my point.’
Then we’d have a moment of awkward silence as she contemplates this journalist, really urged to ask whether she was forced into the profession.
It’s always about the thoughts though. Always. Because when a terrorist attack happens, my mind races to picture the people who are in there. I imagine a couple walking in with their travel bags, hand in hand, big smiles on their faces. The lady giggles at something the husband said as they get to the reception to check in. The receptionist asks them how long they’d be in there and they say two weeks. It won’t get to the end of the day.
I imagine a lady in an office swirling in her chair, laughing with Grace who is directly opposite her. They are gossiping about their boss who has been coming with the same clothes the entire week.
I imagine a father on the phone, telling his wife he’d be late so she has to pick the children from school. An argument starts up between them. He slams his phone on the desk.
I imagine a young man running up and down the office trying to impress his soon-to-be bosses. If he does well in his internship, they’d hire him permanently. He wanted the job so badly so he runs and pants like a dog. He will get the job at any cost. Even if it means surviving a terrorist attack.
I imagine two high school friends planning a meet-ups for ages of which they always postpone or cancel. Then one fine day they decide, today we will meet. Today we must meet. Then they start discussing the venue. Then they weigh their options. The closest place for both of them but also a nice place to hang out with a very close friend. Finally they choose their place. The place of their death.
I imagine someone having a bad day, being all grumpy and moody. He turns to his mate and says, ‘I just can’t wait for this day to end’. But the day is just about to begin.
It is strange isn’t it? That on a very random day, some people make their way to a trap, having no idea whatsoever that their lives will be changed forever. Busy working, busy talking, enjoying their meals as terrorists are seated somewhere watching them and pitying these poor people who don’t know what’s about to go down on them. But these terrorists…how do they choose venues? How do they choose the dates? How do they just decide that today, the angel of death will have a party. Do they have any remorse in them? Is there any one of them who is a bit hesitant and says ‘maybe we don’t have to kill them. We could just frighten them.’ And then the colleague asks, ‘Are you chickening out?’ Is there any part of the planning where they think of cancelling or maybe it dawns on them that it isn’t worth it? Do they ever watch the targeted place and see a pregnant woman with a young boy walking through the gates and they hesitate a bit? Or see a man carrying a bag of pampers and think ‘that’s probably a good father he doesn’t deserve to die’? Don’t tell me they are just cold blooded murderers with no emotion at all. Everyone has something that causes a pinch in the heart. Even if it something very tiny that would trigger their emotions and maybe, just maybe make them or just one of them think twice. Or maybe that’s all they are; cold blooded murderers with no affection or compassion whatsoever. Because how else do they go on a shooting spree on very random, normal people?
I remember an Iftar event that I attended some years back and I happened to sit with a lady who was a victim at the Garissa university attack. Well I didn’t know this until a riot started right outside where the iftar was taking place. I could see how uneasy she got. Of course everyone was restless but she was terrified. And then she told me that she was at the university when the attack happened and somehow she survived. By then, quite some months had passed after the attack, but there she was, re-living the nightmare. I can’t imagine how disturbing and horrifying it is for anyone who has experienced such incidents. It is true some heal and move on, but some will forever be looking behind them whenever they walk. Put three locks on their doors. Avoid going outside unless necessary. Avoid popular places. Avoid public places entirely. Never take taxis or ubers. And it is so so sad how a piece of someone’s life and peace of mind will forever be gone.
What’s more sad is when innocent Muslims and Somalis have to pay the price of others’ wrongdoings. The issue of Islamophobia has been going on for quite a while now and just when we think we are making progress in killing the stereotype, terrorists surprise with another heart-breaking event. It is so unfair that other people have to continue to prove their innocence and justify their existence as if they are ‘natural criminals’.
Sincere condolences to all those who lost their loved ones (May their souls rest in peace), and praying a quick recovery to all those who were injured during the recent Riverside attack in Nairobi, Kenya. We shouldn’t forget to thank and pray for all those who helped in any way during the attack; the police, the ambulance personell, Red cross, blood donors and all other unnamed heroes who assisted in any way. Indeed it is only God who can repay them for their bravery and courage.
May God protect our country and our people. May God turn away any human being with evil intentions for us or our people. May we all stay safe. Ameen.