NAIROBI, Kenya—When I visited Uhuru Park this week, the queues were long and winding with Kenyans from all walks of life waiting for their turn to donate blood.
Following the Sept. 21 attack at Westgate Mall, the Kenya Red Cross appealed to Kenyans to donate blood, which was in short supply in many hospitals, to help the many wounded. The response was amazing. By the last day of the six-day blood drive on Sept. 27, Kenyans had donated 14,584 pints of blood nationwide—the highest ever collected, according to Rose Shonko with the Kenya National Blood Transfusion Service.
Rarely do we see such massive turnouts to help. Nairobians, often seemingly in a hurry, were patient too: Everyone's focus was on the business at hand, donating blood to help however they could. Muslims, Christians, whites, poor, and rich all anxiously waiting together in line. One man regretted he could not help, since he is living with HIV.
Muslims came out in large numbers to donate blood. Even though it’s reported that the terrorist separated Muslims from others during the attack, many in the Muslim community in Nairobi have condemned the killings, calling the attackers criminals.
Kenyans, often known for being tribalistic, have come out as one to help in this hour of need and grieving. Many volunteered to make tea for the security forces, while some brought in donations of tissue paper, snacks, and water.
Our situation may be slowly returning to normalcy, but many are still shaken. The government is trying to reassure the people that it has put in place strong security measures to avert a future attack. But Sept. 21, 2013, forever will remain etched in our history, when about 15 terrorists staged a daring attack, storming an upmarket mall frequented by tourists and well-off families during the weekends. Kenya’s interior secretary said that the death toll now stands at 72, with many still missing, and about 175 wounded, many still in Nairobi hospitals.
The day will remain memorable on two fronts: One, because the nation came under attack in a style never witnessed before, and secondly because Kenyans responded as one people when they were called upon to help the victims.