Sunday night, I was with Lisa and Ilaria when we got a text from Susan, who was in Kampala, that there were two explosions at clubs during the World Cup. From there we called everyone we could to make sure people were alright, but we knew very little and couldn’t get ahold of everyone.
Over the next 24 hours, it’s sunk in more and more. In the morning I found out that more than 50 people had been killed, and I got confirmation of what Lisa had speculated the night before – that al Shabaab had done it in retaliation for the AU troops in Somalia. It wasn’t until the early evening that Monica told me the restaurant hit was Ethiopian Village, her favorite restaurant and a place I probably would’ve visited before leaving. It was a while later that I found out that the one American killed, Nate Henn, was a former IC intern and was close to a lot of my friends. That’s also when I found out Tony had been with him. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I found out that Brian and Susan had been at a bar just 500 meters away from the rugby club.
The attack gradually sunk in more and more as the day went by. With internet only marginally working and running out of time on our phones, it was all I could do to make sure my parents and Kim knew I was okay.
It’s an eerie feeling, being here – even in far away Lira. I mean, when 9/11 hit I was thousands of miles away and had never been east of Missouri. I knew people who were in England during 7/7 and in Moscow during the train bombing earlier this year. For me, I had been in Kampala just seven days before, in the same area. If I had found myself in Kampala during the World Cup, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had found myself close to one of the two places hit. It’s surreal to know and think these things when you’re just a few hours away and know people who were directly affected. I’m glad I’m safe and everyone I know is safe, but my thoughts are with all of those who weren’t so lucky.
For those that are worried, I’m safe in Lira – a small, northern town that’s presumably not an attractive target to foreign militants concerned with mass gatherings. I’ll be remaining up north for the next few weeks, but will inevitably be in Kampala for at least a couple of days before my departure. For now, all is well in Lira town.