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September 27, 2013

“How A Terrorist Attack in Kenya Changed My Career Aspirations”

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Militants from the al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization al-Shabab attacked the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 21, 2013, leaving at least 67 dead. The attack was apparently in retaliation for the presence of Kenyan security in neighboring Somalia, al-Shabab’s home base.

Many Kenyans were personally affected by the attack, including Isaac, a student in Class 6 at a school in Nairobi. He wrote to NewsHour Extra about how the events at the Westgate mall changed how he sees his future.


Saturday morning on September 21 looked just like any other day. Having completed my homework the previous day, I woke up slightly later than normal to find breakfast ready. I took my mother’s phone and texted my dad to allow us to go for a movie. I thought if dad accepted, maybe my sister and I could visit one of the malls in town.

My dad declined my request to go to any mall so I decided to practice piano before going out to play football with my friends.

After a couple hours of practicing music, I decided to switch on the television to watch my favorite cartoon channel. But there was flashing breaking news. There was an armed gang attack at the Westgate Mall. Everyone thought it was a normal robbery. But it then became clear that the country had been hit by terrorists.

Isaac, Nairobi, Kenya

Isaac, Nairobi, Kenya

Anxiety and grief gripped the country on what was actually World Peace Day.
Televisions started beaming horror images of innocent people lying dead all over the place.

Many Kenyan children were attending the East FM children’s cooking contest at the Mall. East FM is Kenya’s most listened to Asian radio station. Many innocent people were killed. It was a horror movie played live on the television. I could not believe my eyes as I always thought these things were either from movies or from my computer games.

For most shoppers, there was nowhere to run and they moved blindly as they tried their best to escape but all their efforts were in vain for the terrorists, who were armed to the teeth, shot them mercilessly. The few policemen who were at the Mall were easily eliminated by the heavily armed terrorists.

A fierce battle ensued soon after the military arrived at the Mall. The deadly fighting lasted for three days, as each side refused to throw in the towel or even despair. Helicopters hovered above the Mall as ground troops engaged the attackers. Seven terrorists were killed while eleven others were arrested.

Many Kenyans and citizens from other countries mourned as their loved ones were laid to rest. The attack has made many children orphans and many mothers and fathers widows and widowers.

I was scared out of my wits as I watched the drama unfold at my favorite mall. The attack was not one of the usual robberies that occur many times in Kenya. It was one of the most inhuman acts.

Safety is a word that is now forgotten. I no longer feel safe in the land of my country. I keep imagining, suppose these hooligans decide to spray their cheap bullets on us in the school bus as we go to school! But who is safe now? Whether we are in America or India or Israel, we are living in fear.

Before the attack, my friends and I often went to the Westlake Mall to buy soccer shoes in the NIKE shop where they knew our tastes. Now the Mall is like a bottomless pit.

If it is reconstructed, I might venture back. For how can we live? We are born in a world of madness and we have to adjust, hoping that our leaders will protect us.

I read that the conflict in Somalia and other countries is the cause of all this. I read about insecurity in newspapers and watch them on televisions every day. The lawlessness in Somalia had to be addressed by other countries because Somali government had lost control.

The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) decided to start a campaign called “Linda Nchi” which is Swahili for “Protect the Country.” The blood spilt at the Westgate Mall is not in vain. It is for a worthy cause.

Some older people see this attack as a religious war. But young people see it as revenge for the success of the Kenyan Defense Force. We should bring peace among all races. My mother might not approve, but the Westgate Mall incident has helped me make up my mind. I will not hesitate to join the KDF to defend my country as helicopter gun ship pilot.


H/T Rene McGuffin

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