We’re living in the age of the terrorist. We Kenyans came face-to-face with this face of terror when the American Embassy, then in Nairobi’s CBD, was bombed in 1998. Over 200 Kenyans died in that attack. Since then, there have been several other attacks, the most notable ones being the Westgate, Garissa University and DusitD2 attacks.
Unfortunately, terrorism is here to stay, so we must learn to somehow live with it. To prepare for it. This came to the fore when this week, my colleagues and I sat through an hour-long training on what to do should terrorists force their way into the newsroom. It felt surreal, sitting there, listening to the three options I had to save my life should a terrorist with a deadly gun burst into the office firing away, his intention to kill everyone in the room. I learnt that I could run, that I could hide, and that I could fight …
I also learnt the difference between concealing myself and taking cover. Going the first route would prevent the shooter from seeing me, but it would not stop the bullet from smacking into me, while taking cover would go a long way in stopping the killer’s bullet from finding me, but would not necessarily stop the killer from seeing me. What difficult times we live in.
Since then, I have been acutely aware of the thick pillar near my work station. Before this training, I viewed it with mild annoyance because I have to walk round it whenever I want to talk to my colleagues on the other aside, and have to walk sideways to and from my desk in case a colleague has a visitor because that visitor would have to sit on the narrow space between the pillar and the co-worker’s desk. I have since stopped viewing that pillar as an inconvenience. I now consider it an asset, my coat of armour, my lifeline, should a terrorist walk in with a blazing gun. And for the first time since I moved to this work station, I have become very aware of the window next to my desk. It is no longer useful for just letting in fresh air.
I sit on the third floor, and though our trainer pointed out that windows are possible escape routes, we would surely be jumping to our deaths if we chose to escape that way. In our case, he pointed out, a rope could come in handy. If we kept a fairly long one in a drawer, he pointed out, we could use it to shorten the fall to, say, the first floor, from where we might just make it to the ground floor alive if we jumped … Yes, it felt surreal, almost like we were considering a possible script for a Mission Impossible movie.
If there was no opportunity to hide or conceal ourselves, the trainer, a former policeman, went on, the only option we had was to overpower the terrorist and somehow wrest the gun from him. He must have seen the disbelief in many of our faces because he said, “You’d rather die fighting than just sitting there …”
We are, indeed, living in difficult times. I shudder to think what the world has in store for our children. And their children.
The writer is the Editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. [email protected]