Shockwaves: the Westgate attack

Children and adults alike take refuge behind a vehicle during the assault on the Nairobi shopping centre

On Tuesday 11 September 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City. Newspapers everywhere ran supplements in the following days, branding the images of the flaming buildings into the psyches of the nations such that they could never be forgotten. The images were shocking; in one, a man clutched his office chair tightly beneath him as he hurtled to his death, framed by the burning towers.

Soon after, the war on terror was launched. All of a sudden, words such as ‘suicide bomber’ and ‘terrorist’ started to become so familiar that, after 12 years, we have been desensitised to the scenes of devastation and destruction beamed into our houses by the media. Productions such as The Kingdom, The Hurt Locker and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare have repeatedly reinforced the horror of terrorism, yet their desire to portray it accurately serves only to desensitise us further.

And so, when the events in Nairobi were first reported, many people will not have even looked at the story, perhaps dismissing it as ‘another terrorist attack’. But this event in a far-off country has been brought to our doorstep: a St Andrews student has been personally affected by what has happened.

Some readers may question our choice to use strong images to accompany the Features piece by Vivek Shah, whose family friend was caught up in the violence. It may be deemed insensitive by some to have printed images of the dead so soon after the atrocity. Perhaps the sight of blood and the wounded might seem too graphic or shocking for a student newspaper.

The pictures are not pleasant and they are shocking, and The Saint will not pretend otherwise. It is our duty to present the realities facing our students to the rest of the student body and not shy away from difficult truths.

This town is an incredibly tight-knit community. We are often claimed to have no more than two degrees of separation between any student here as a result of our academic families, societies and classes. The odds are that you are only a few social steps away from someone who has been directly affected by a terrible event.

When the Twin Towers fell, the West was united against the threat from Al-Qaeda, the images in the media heightening the pathos of the situation. The attack on the Westgate Centre has created shockwaves that have reached our small town; it is only by uniting against this horror that we can face it down.


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