Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blown Out: The Bombings in Kampala

It is interesting to write this entry on September 11th. This date is associated with terrorism and now, July 11th is as well. The following is what the day of and after the bombings was like for me as well as some extras.

July 11, 2010
My friend Mary was in town and we joined another group that went to Ndere Dancers, a show that highlights the different tribal dances around Uganda. I had been wanting to go for awhile and Mary coming gave the perfect opportunity. We had a fun night watching all the dancing. The World Cup final was on that night and they were hurrying to finish so that people could watch it. They were even showing it at the place if people wanted to stay. I was almost tempted. I REALLY wanted to watch it and we don’t have a TV at our house. We drove back home. It was about 9:30-10:00pm. The rugby club is a place we pass daily as it is on our way home. We passed it that night. Inside were hundreds of people watching the World Cup final. An hour later, two bombs went off killing many.

July 12, 2010.
5:50am: my alarm went off. I quickly turned off the annoying sound. It was still dark outside. I changed into my work out clothes as Kate and I were going to go running. As I was about to walk out of my room, Kate knocked.

“I just talked with Catharine…there’s been a bombing…”

“…a WHAT?” I interrupted. “Here!? A BOMB? Like, a BOMB? Who would bomb here!?” I couldn’t believe it. We’re in Uganda, not Iraq or Afghanistan.

Kate went on to explain that they didn’t know yet who was responsible. Since we drive to a certain area of town to run, we would be driving right by one of the bombsites. Catharine thought it’d be safe for us to still go but Kate and I decided to play it safe and stay home.

My mind wouldn’t stop going. The rugby club that two bombs went off is extremely close to our church and the Hope Alive! site. It’s also very close to many of our friends and students. Since it was the last game of the World Cup, it would be no surprise if many people we knew were there. There was another bomb at an Ethiopian restaurant about 15 minutes away from our house.

It was a waiting game to find out more details. Until I knew more, I had to tell Mary, my friend and visitor, what was going on. Clearly, we always want our visitors to have a good time and have nothing bad happen to them and it’s the same here. At the time, details were so scarce that I didn’t feel as though there was anything for us to be scared for our own personal safety. It’s hard to convey that though.

We went to work that morning, passing a man selling newspapers with a gory picture of the dead on front. Our route to work passed the rugby club. Traffic was insane. People were standing around watching the police presence that surrounded the area. There are walls around the rugby club so you’re not able to ever see in. That was a really good thing that morning. It was crazy to think what happened there the night before.

We got to work in time for our Monday staff meeting. It was there that we discovered that we had friends that were there. Shammah, my dear friend who is a Hope Alive! mentor and helps lead the girls Bible study with me, was there rooting for Spain. She was with two of our friends. She still came to our meeting that morning. It was crazy to hear her first hand account. They were two rows away from those that were killed. Two rows. The things they saw that night can never be forgotten. One of our Hope Alive! girls who also comes to the Bible study was there. Molly and her sister went to watch the game. Her sister was one of the dead. I haven’t seen Molly since (which, if any of my Ugandan friends are reading this, have you talked with her? I literally haven’t seen her since)

After the bombings, security was extremely tight. To this day, I can’t get into some grocery stores without my car and purse being searched, sometimes being wanded down. Rumors were flying everywhere about other bombs being found in neighborhoods, homes, schools and more. Luckily, none of those ended up being true. Security has lessened over the last few months but the presence of police is still everywhere.

The media coverage here was a culture shock in its own. While in the States, the media often won't take gory pictures of the dead, but here there is no filter. There are many pictures that remain in my mind due to the lack of filter amongst newspapers here. There was a picture of a man going through the pockets of one of the dead. That's apparently a common practice. Can you imagine? It must have been difficult to identify the dead with all of their wallets missing. There are others that I won't mention so that you won't have those mental images. Too much. The media coverage from outside was another factor. It was amazing the amount of misinformation that had come out. My mom e-mailed me at one point with concern that they were targeting Americans. I really don't know where that came from since both of the attacks were at places where Ugandans hang out. If they had wanted to attack Americans, there are definitely places and times that would have been more conducive for that. But, they didn't. They knew who they wanted to hurt and it wasn't foreigners.

I wondered if it was all too surreal for me or if I was just trying to put on a good face for Mary. However, I don’t think it was either of those. Truly, there wasn’t a time where I felt unsafe. I knew that Americans weren’t the target (no matter what was told in the American press) and the military presence after the attacks was so intense that I felt protected. I also firmly believe that my life is not in my hands but in the hands of my Lord, my Protector. And it still is.

Please pray for Uganda. Pray for no other attacks to occur. Pray for the families and friends of those that died. Pray for the injured that are still recovering. Pray for those that were there that can’t erase the memories. Pray for God to be clearly seen, for people to draw closer to Him and to see their need for a relationship with Him.

*Note: Some of my specifics of the bombing may be off, especially about timing. My memory is hazy of what time they went off and my internet isn’t working well enough to research the exact details.

1 comment:

snikdayram said...

It's amazing how many mental pictures just came flooding back into my memory after reading that. I had almost forgotten about the traffic and the staff meeting. I remember the newspaper pictures the most.

PS - I really did think you were brave!