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5 Things to Do After Terrorists Attack a Shopping Mall

westgate shopping mallI have this photo of my mother and my daughter touching the tusks of a fake elephant outside the Nakumatt grocery store in the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Yesterday I saw a photo online of that same elephant only there was blood splattered across the floor and a body lying where my daughter stood.

Saturday September 21 terrorists launched a violent and aggressive attack at Westgate, killing at least 68, wounding over 175, and holding hostages. The next day a church in Pakistan was bombed.

I don’t know what to do with this kind of pain. It isn’t mine, directly. Everyone I personally know and love is physically safe. But it is mine, too. I am a mother and a wife and a sister and a daughter and a friend. I am a human. The president of Kenya lost a nephew and the nephew’s fiancée. Friends of friends are still waiting for news of loved ones. This kind of shocking human-on-human pain is, at least partly, for all of us to bear together.

I don’t know what to do to make the violence stop or to make the pain go away. I don’t know what I will do when pain becomes more directly mine. All I know is what I did do, after forcing myself to turn off the Twitter feed on Saturday. Maybe these are the things most of us already do. We live and love and talk and hold and pray with our kids.

  • Pray 1 of 5
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    Pray with your kids. Pray for the hostages still in the mall. Pray for the families who escaped but are traumatized. Pray for the injured. Pray for those waiting for news, looking for loved ones. Pray for the terrorists, that they would stop. Today and in the future.

    *image credit Rana Ossama via Flickr

  • Hold Them 2 of 5
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    Lay down beside your lovelies while they are sleeping. Curve your body around theirs. Rub their soft, soft cheeks and cry softly into their hair.

  • Listen 3 of 5
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    Talk to your kids and let them talk to you. Let them ask hard, uncomfortable questions. Let them express fear or anger or sadness or confusion or nothing. I've said it before, be their safe place to process.

  • Forgive 4 of 5
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    Don't promise that nothing will ever happen to you or to your kids or to someone they love. You just don't know. But do promise to live with courage, unafraid, to not hide behind walls. Do promise to love with abandon. Do promise to step toward forgiveness.

    *image credit Sean McGrath via Flickr

  • Live 5 of 5
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    Play a game, watch a movie, read a book, go for a walk, bake cookies, visit a friend, sing a song, dance fast and long, and laugh really, really hard. Today you are alive, live it well and live it together. Delight in it and celebrate it. Live it loud, in defiance of terror and violence.

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