Sunday, August 28, 2011

August 28, 2011 - Too Close to Home

On Friday, the UN in Abuja, Nigeria was attacked by a suicide bomber.  Information about casualties and deaths is not final yet, but needless to say it is a horrible tragedy and many UN staff members lost their lives.  I know that horrible tragedies happen all over the world everyday and that a lot of people live with suicide bombers and terrorist attacks on a regular basis.  But, when something like this happens - on a UN compound - I have a bit of a "Oh my God! Why do we live here?  Why does he work there?" moment.  

It happened at a UN compound in Somalia when I was pregnant with Grace.  We had not yet lived here a year.  I was in Nairobi and Kristoffer was in Uganda for a conference; I couldn't get in touch with him and had a completely irrational panic attack [note, in case you need to brush up on your African geography - neither one of us was anywhere near to being anywhere close to being even in the same country as the bombing].  I was almost hyperventilating and my UNICEF colleagues had to calm me down - fearing an early labor or something I'm sure!

It happened again on Friday, although to a smaller degree. I just started having visions in my head of a bombing at the UN here in Nairobi.  How will I know?  How will I get in touch with Kristoffer?  How will I tell our families? What will I do if I am alone in this country and I need to get to some "family crisis response center"?  What if I am at the UN to do some banking when it happens?  What if Kristoffer is not even on the compound at the time but I can't reach him to be sure?  As you can see, I have a hard time stopping my "what ifs" from spiraling out of control.  

It also happens if, for some reason, I don't hear from Kristoffer during the work day at all (usually we text) or if I try to get in touch with him and can't.  One time both he and Charles happened to have the ringers on their phones off and I was trying to reach one of them. I feared, of course, that there was some kind of attack at the UN just as Charles was picking Kristoffer up from work.

Most of the time, I don't allow these thoughts to consume me and I am happy with our life.  Terrorist attacks happen, as we know, even in the US and Europe. We simply can't stop living our life out of fear or, of course, the terrorists win.  We are still more likely to die in a car crash than in a terrorist attack, but it's not like we don't get into our car everyday.  But I do live here - a place that is mostly fine but also has a dark side that we don't like to write too much about - and we don't have a huge network of people who would be able to help us in a major emergency, particularly if they were also dealing with that same emergency (as most of our friends here would probably be).  I feel like there is a small percentage of my brain and heart that is constantly worrying/thinking about our security.  I am not always aware of it, but it is always working in the background.

So, it's really just that the news of Friday's bombing hit a little too close to home for me.  As usual, I pray for the UN staff who lost their colleagues, the families who are grieving and the Nigerian community that has to rebuild.  And I pray that we are never in that situation.  I pray.

LMW

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