, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 20 — It was a blue sky, sun shiny sort of day; the kind perfect for a spot of shopping or meeting a friend at a café; and by extension, a busy day for those who would man those counters. And so it was at the Westgate mall.
A young couple shopped for their wedding rings, a radio presenter and a marketing manager of a leading oil manufacturing company hosted children for a cooking festival as a Nigerian poet and a diplomat met friends for coffee.
Fred Bosire manned the meat counter inside the Nakumatt supermarket, Geoffrey Kotia supervised the entertainment area where the kids participating in the cooking festival were playing, Muimi Kiteme delivered vegetables and Administration Police Constable Ali Niraj was preparing to escort money from a Safaricom shop located at the mall to the bank.
The last thing they expected was four men with hate in their hearts to enter the mall, guns blazing.
The next few hours after midday played out like a scene from a horror movie and what was a blue sky, sun shiny sort of day turned into a bloody Saturday which is commemorated as one of Kenya’s darkest day.
And when Flying Squad operative Benjamin Chemjor heard of shots fired at the Westgate mall, he thought it must be a shootout between fellow police officers and robbers. The last thing he expected to discover was that terrorists had dared to attack innocent Kenyans at what was known as Nairobi’s premier shopping mall, in broad daylight.
It was a day on which a nation was held captive. “Some things you just never forget,” Kotia later testified in court.
He and the others who were shot, injured or killed by shrapnel from grenades hurled at them as they participated in the children’s cooking festival having been taunted to call President Uhuru Kenyatta for help.
But along with the understandable anger at the senseless loss of life sprung a togetherness, as political rivals came together to condemn the act, with Kenyans coming out in large numbers to donate blood, money, time, their lives in solidarity with their countrymen. Many risked their lives to save people trapped in the mall where 67 people were killed, including security forces.
Because after all, it could have been anyone of us, drinking a cup of coffee with a friend or serving that cup of coffee; death, shrapnel and bullets being no respecter of persons.
So as we mark the first anniversary since that tragic day of September 21, 2014, may we remember those who lost their lives, and all those who lost their loved ones as well as the lessons learnt and that in the face of great tragedy, we found each other.