Here in lovely Washington DC it is already Fall. The weather is cooler, we’re trading shorts for sweaters, and the pumpkin spice/ cinnamon/ fall drink menus are out. There’s something about new seasons that makes you take a look around and make a change to your life. So late into Saturday night I sit around philosophizing about life and putting together my abstract ‘to-do’ list.  Waking up late on Sunday morning (okay, almost afternoon but #dontjudgeme), I see I got a text early in the morning from my sister in Nairobi.


Wait… what?

I look at my phone, confused. What follows is a conversation between my sister and my mother about the situation, discussing what she should do, and if she should leave the house.  The “where are/were you” roll call begins:

  • My sister was driving over to Westgate for cupcakes but changed my mind on the way over. She’s safe…
  • One friend was there and they got out quickly, but they are  traumatized…
  • A business colleague was trapped for hours before she could get out.  She can barely speak…
  • A family friend had to run his kids barefoot across the parking lot to escape…

Its unreal. So unreal. How does this happen in Kenya?  Its Kenya! Things like this happen in other countries, not Kenya! I start trying to find places to follow news coverage.  First, CNN.  That lasts for all of five minutes as some correspondent basically posits that the only reason that Westgate is significant is because there were  Americans involved. I am infuriated!  Are the lives lost any less valuable because they’re Kenyan?

After a short twitter rant, a good friend reminds me that I have a Roku and can stream my news.  Sky News comes to the rescue with real time, thoughtful analysis about the situation from an international point of view.  Finally, I move to the KTN Livestream to learn more from the local perspective. The images of people fleeing for their lives are heartbreaking.

People flee from Westgate Mall, Nairobi Kenya. Photo credit - Jason Straziuso, Associated Press

People flee from Westgate Mall, Nairobi Kenya. Photo credit – Jason Straziuso, Associated Press

As we watch the situation unfold over the next few days (days!!) texts are flying back and forth from friends and loved ones around the world.  The sense of unreality remains. I’m so far away. So impotent.  There’s nothing I can do from my living room in Washington DC but watch and pray. Suddenly all my ‘change in season’ musings seem so trivial.  There are those for whom life has just stopped.  68 precious people will never get to go home and be with their loved ones.  Survivors are only just beginning the long road to mental and emotional healing.  Businesses and livelihoods are destroyed. A nation suffers the scars of a brutal act of terror, and we’ve all just lost a little more of our idealism and sense of safety in the world.

The truth is that its not over, its just beginning. The mourning, the rebuilding, the processing, the healing… In the days and months ahead we will all be trying to make sense of the senseless.  How do you even begin to understand the incomprehensible? Is there really any answer that someone could give you that would make you say, ‘Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense to me now.’

I have no easy slogans or profound words of wisdom to offer.  Saying that God is on the throne seems trite and insufficient, but its true.  This one thing I thing I hold on to. I don’t know, He does, and that has to be enough.  I do know that life is too short to live by the sidelines. Go after those dreams. Make yourself vulnerable to another human being. Embrace joy to the fullest extent possible. Live life now. The clock’s ticking and time’s a-wasting.

If you’re in Kenya you can donate by sending funds to the zero-rated PayBill number 848484, or giving blood for the injured at one of these nationwide blood centers.  I’m still figuring out how the international diaspora can donate other than sending money home. If you know, please share this with me in the comments.