Beverly Lwenya, founder of The Afropolitan Shop's reaction to the terrorist attack on westgate mall in Nairobi Kenya.
COMMENTARY | NAIROBI, Kenya -- A somber yet determined mood hangs over Nairobi today in the wake of the horrific Westgate Mall attacks.
It feels eerily like September 11, and as a Kenyan-American, I cannot help but notice the similarities. The reality is just now dawning on me that both my countries are at active war with terrorists. Each nation's soul has been ripped by a massive security breach. But hope still rises.
In Kenya, lots of stories of heroism have emerged: Stories of spared lives, and stories of those who were meant to be at Westgate but, for some reason or another, cancelled or postponed their plans -- just like those who missed flights on 9/11 planes, or who were late to work at the World Trade Center.
Just like 9/11, a months-old president is at the helm and his leadership is being tested hour by hour. So far, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has risen to the occasion. Having lost a nephew in the attack himself, he reminds us that "we are as brave and invincible as the lions on our coat of arms." Hope rises.
Just like 9/11, the courage and selflessness shown by various security and humanitarian agencies is unbelievable. During 9/11, the United States witnessed the heroism of the New York fire and police departments. This weekend, heroes have arisen from Kenya's police forces and Kenya Defense Forces, and they've been seen in the tireless efforts of the Kenya Red Cross, hospitals and emergency first-responders. A delicate interweaving of security and emergency response units, as well as ordinary citizens, helped ensure that even fewer lives were lost.
As the world witnessed Africans rescuing, attending to and comforting their fellow Africans, the message sent out was clear: You've only made us stronger. We are one.
Kenya, a country with fault lines of ethnic conflicts, also happens to be a melting pot of races, religions and ethnicities, like the United States. The terrorists inadvertently caused the entire nation to unite against the shameless, faceless presence of terror. They caused a closing of ranks between bitter political rivals, who have fully agreed the preservation of Kenya is worth everything.
The biggest irony is that the terrorists came to create a bloodbath and, instead, they created the largest national blood drive in Kenya's history. Now our blood banks, not streets, are filled with blood from every tribe.
Kenya has changed. We are now of mixed blood. We are now one.