On 28 January, 2009, a fire razed down Nakumatt Supermarket in downtown Nairobi, Kenya. Security guards locked exit doors in an effort to prevent looting. Angel Wainaina, an actress who played the role of Sergeant Maria on the Cobra Squad TV series, died in that fire. So did Peter Serry, then CEO of Tusker FC. About 50 lives are believed to have been lost in the fire. Three days later, on 31 January 2009, An oil spill ignition occurred in Molo, Kenya, and resulted in the deaths of at least 113 people and critical injuries to over 200 more. The incident occurred when an oil spill from an overturned truck burst into flames as onlookers attempted to obtain remnants of the spilled fuel for personal use. This is the prayer I wrote in the wake of these fiery tragedies:
Little Lucy just wanted a card for her dad’s birthday,
Mrs. Kamau, my neighbor, did not come home yesterday,
Baby Brian doesn’t understand why mommy can’t stop crying,
John was just shopping for a wedding gift when he saw the thick smoke coming down the aisle towards him.
The little boy dropped the toy gun as it burst into flames in his hands…
He stood there, paralyzed amidst blazing candy and smoking chocolate bars…
Wondering why it was suddenly so hot and why people were running and screaming…
Wondering why he couldn’t breath.
The old farmer could finally make some little money from selling the petrol,
It’s been a hard year, no rain to wet his shamba (farm),
He thanked God for answering his prayer as he sprinted towards the lake of gold,
But now he is standing paralyzed in a sea of fire…
The explosion had partly deafened him…
He cannot hear the screams of doom….
The failed attempts to flee…
The choking smoke…
The screams of despair…
A street full of human torches…
Lord is this how Sodom and Gomorrah was?
Did you burn the mothers with their shopping?
Did you torch the children with their toys?
We are wondering, father, is this how you punish your children?
Lord, are you giving us a taste of hell or was it true what the news reporters told us…
That it was just an accident?
Father, if this was the devil’s doing, how come you allowed it?
1 year old Mary sleeping on her mothers back…
Why did you let her cute little fingers turn to ashes in the fire?
Father, my heart is burning because innocent lives were lost,
A mother’s heart is burning because her son is no more,
A young lady’s heart is burning because what’s left of her dad is just another smoking skull…
Our hearts are burning Lord…
In coals of confusion and bitterness.
We are sad, we are disillusioned and we are angry.
Angry at careless workers;
Angry at greedy Engineers;
Angry at the inflation in the country;
Angry at poverty;
Angry at the drought and the endless scandals.
We are burning with rage Lord.
And yes, we are angry at you!
And we are clinging to your mercy and grace.
Forgive us for any misdirected rage.
Heal our hurts, Lord, revive our charred hearts.
Let your waters of life fall on each grieving heart.
Let your waters of love comfort every new orphan, widow and widower.
Your word says you are the father to the fatherless….
A child at home awaits a mother,
A student at school awaits a teacher,
A father in the office awaits a son,
A wife in the kitchen prepares a meal for a husband that is not coming home,
Our burning hearts await your healing touch Father.
Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.
© Cornell 2009