A Take on the Kenyan Mall Shootings

Harry Scholes

Staff Writer

It is very hard to imagine the terror those people in Westgate Shopping Mall must have faced. Hiding, waiting, wondering if the door will suddenly fling open and the last thing they’ll see on this earth is the barrel of a gun. We hear great tales of horror and hope- the man shot because he couldn’t name Mohammed’s mother, the man with the Christian first name and the Muslim surname who escaped by putting his thumb over his damning identification, the mother and her son who hid underneath boxes for seven hours, waiting for death. Husbands watching their wives shot down as they try to run, innocent children and pregnant women slaughtered at a cooking competition. Then there are the heroes- Satpal Singh for one, who managed to get approximately 40 people to safety via a roof terrace despite being shot at repeatedly. The government sends out conflicting messages, with different ministers telling different stories all trying to pretend they’re in control of the situation. Three days of mourning have been declared, with flags flying at half-mast all over Nairobi. At present, 67 people have been found dead. Prominent figures, as well as tourists and residents from all over the world, were murdered. It seems that the siege of Westgate has affected everyone.

However, many students here at Latin are unaware of this tragedy. When questioned, one student replied “What Kenya thing?” Another student remarked that the situation was “very bad.” Yet another Latin student commented that “[he] doesn’t pay much attention to foreign events.” While it may seem that many Latin community members have a deep interest in foreign affairs, there is a lack of concern about events outside our personal sphere- incidents that don’t appear immediately to affect us.

We like to distance ourselves from these catastrophic occurrences, thinking that they can only happen in third world countries and that the United States is a much safer than that. Latin is an especially safe community, so it difficult to imagine a similar tragedy occurring within our school’s boundaries. However, it must be realized that the events at Westgate are not so different from ones that happen in what are considered ‘safe’ places in the United States. The murder of twenty schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary and the shooting at a midnight movie screening of Batman demonstrate that any community is vulnerable to disaster. Tragic events that transpire in third world countries are eerily similar to that of calamities that occur within the United States.

Clearly, the lack of interest in international tragedies is due to distance. Disaster that occurs outside of American soil may seem irrelevant. This gives an impression of how skewed our sense of tragedy might be. For example, the Boston Marathon bombing this past April inspired thousands of tributes, tears, and minutes of silence in memory of those killed. It also sparked shock that such a thing could happen on United States soil. When one considers the number killed in Boston compared to the number in Nairobi, it seems obvious that there should be more of a concern with Nairobi’s tragedy. However, the lack of interest in Nairobi is because the attack is not in our own country. As members of the global community, Latin has a responsibility to care about what happens to others even if we are not directly connected with them.