A year after Garissa terror attack, 147 still not a number

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By Mukurima X Muriuki

On Thursday 2nd April 2015, just before the sun rose, and as students at Garissa University College were preparing to start their day, terrorists struck. Some of the students were still asleep while a few had woken up and getting ready to head to early morning Christian prayers. This was however, cut short by terrorists who took 800 students on a day-long hostage ordeal, and sadly, ended up killing 148 of them. It turned out to be the most lethal terrorist attack on Kenya since the 1998 US Embassy bombing. Thankfully, more than 600 were rescued and security forces managed to kill 4 of the terrorists and 5 of the bastards were arrested.

Today is the first anniversary of the Garissa terror massacre. To the families who lost their loved ones, I still mourn with you. As a fellow citizen of the great country called Kenya, I pray with you that God’s grace is sufficient for you as you endure the loss.

Bernard Kipkemboi Tonui succumbed to gunshot wounds. He was the only GSU officer from the Recce Company felled by the attackers. Tonui had just arrived from the US where he had persued an anti-terrorism course. He died doing what he swore to do-defend our country.

Abdulrazak Mohamed was a night guard at the university and he too, must have tried to fight off the attackers. But he could only do so much before his life was cut short.

Abel Mukhwana was an Economist student. I can see a young man who was fascinated to read the works of Karl Marx, telling the people of the world to unite!

Alex Omorwa Mogaka was only 19 and the only child in the family. He died under a hail of bullets from the barrel of a terrorist’s gun. He wanted to be somebody and be the voice of reason. Those dreams were shattered.

Ayub Njau Kimotho was a second year business administration. Just before the goons got to his cubicle, he texted his brother; “Hapa tumefika sasa wacha tuachie Mungu” (May the will of God be done). Ayub may have died wondering what kind of hatred would consume people to the extent of butchering their fellow human beings in such a crude way.

Beatrice Njeri Thinwa was only 20. She hoped to pursue a PHD someday. Her favorite singer was Kenny Rodgers. But I believe, just like Kenny Rodger sung, that the terrorists will not out-run the long arm of the law.

Doreen Gakii was known to her friends as “Special Rose.” She was bubbly and always full of life. Now she is an angel in heaven, looking down on us.

Ebby Omari, is described by her friends as a jovial girl who loved being her mom’s best friend. She was the key that unlocked the essence of friendship and all her friends knew she was loyal and protective. But she could not protect herself, or some of her friends who were felled by the terrorists’ bullets.

Gideon Bryson Mwakulegha loved to dance, play and watch football and also sing. In a sense I see myself in Gideon. I don’t know which football team he supported. Maybe one our paths would have crossed one day and I would have told him about the greatness of Baricho Fc. But that hope was stolen by men who never stopped, for once, to use logic.

Diana Musabi loved basketball. I can imagine her favorite basketball player being Lebron James or Stephen Curry or James Harden. Tterrorists aimed a gun at her, pulled the trigger and shot several times, and killing her. 
John Mwangi Maina is believed to have left his hideout to go save his girlfriend. Here was a man made of steel and resolve. When Bruno Mars sung that he could take a grenade for his girl, maybe the song was meant for John. He took a bullet for his girl. But sadly though, both died in the attack, felled by terrorists’ gun.

Jeff Macharia was his mom’s only child. I read that his mother was advised not to have any other child, maybe because of a medical condition. But that child is gone, not taken by a medical condition but taken away by a condition of the terrorists that makes them believe they will change the people’s way of life. No they will not!

Laban Kumba Daniel fought with the terrorists but was overpowered. He died a painful death, yet hoping he could put an end to the massacre.

Officer Peter Masinde Nyangura was the seventh born in a family of 8. He did not live to see the birth of his child, as he left a pregnant wife behind. A dream of the unborn child to be held in daddy’s strong and protective arms was taken away, by terrorists.

Midred Yondo Wakholi excelled in theater, was outspoken and loved to eat mangoes. I can imagine she looked up to someone like Lupita Nyong’o. I sense deep in my bones that she believed, just like Lupita, that her dreams to be somebody in society were valid. But those dreams were invalidated by terrorists.

Obadiah Okiring is described by his friends as joyful, focused and wanted to be the best. How could he be the best when the road towards that dream was destroyed by terrorists?

Risper Maggie Musyoka loved gospel music and wanted to start business. I can see her humming to her favorite gospel music as she checked how the business was faring. A journey cut short by terrorists.

Susan Anyango was shot, flown to Nairobi but succumbed to injuries. She loved volleyball and football. She was only 23. This is an entire generation, wiped by people acting in the name of religion.

These Kenyans who died in the attack did not deserve it. I am heartbroken remembering Jane Akinyi’s last text message. Inside Garissa University College, as Jane watched the terrorists kill her comrades, one by one, and knowing that they were coming for her next, she managed to share her last moments with her boyfriend saying; ‘in case we don’t see each other again, just know I love you’.

Up to date, none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. The Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, “When I looked for light, then came darkness.” Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, police and first responders who went to the scene as soon as they could.  I want to thank the staff at Garissa Provincial General Hospital led by Karanga Kimani whose quick decision-making to establish basic life support teams at the scene as well as a triage team at the hospital emergency department saved many lives. I also commend the three officers who paid the ultimate price in their selfless service to Kenya. These heroes stood up to be counted in a real way when it counted most.

These patriotic Kenyans remind us that heroism does not require physical strength. Heroism is here within us, in the hearts of so many Kenyans, all around us waiting to be summoned, as it was on that Thursday morning by the doctors, nurses, interns, volunteers and even the police who swung to action within the shortest time possible. Their collective efforts showed that Kenya is and will always be a sum of its people that live by the Harambee spirit of pulling and pooling together.