Bermudian relives horror of Nairobi attack

  • Bermudian educator: Joanne Ball Burgess is the head of Creative Cottage, a micro-school she opened in Kenya in 2014 (Photograph supplied)

    Bermudian educator: Joanne Ball Burgess is the head of Creative Cottage, a micro-school she opened in Kenya in 2014 (Photograph supplied)


A Bermudian dance teacher yesterday relived the horror of a terror attack in her adopted home of Nairobi.

Joanne Ball-Burgess, who has lived in the Kenyan capital for eight years, said that the attack on a hotel and office complex which killed at least 21 people and injured many more had shocked the city and the country.

Ms Ball-Burgess said: “News started flooding in of a possible robbery at the Dusit Compound, but immediately I said to myself ‘no way’.”

She added that she was working from home when news broke of Tuesday’s attack by an extremist Muslim group.

Gunmen threw bombs outside the hotel and Kenyan police said one suicide bomber exploded a device in the hotel lobby before the terrorists opened fire on people in the area.

Ms Ball-Burgess said that, although she and her family were safe, she had friends who were in the area when the attack took place.

She added: “A friend of mine, a dance colleague, he was on the street when it all happened.

“He said it was quite scary when the bomb went off.”

Ms Ball-Burgess said: “I was in various Whatsapp groups where people asked for prayers for the friends that were still stuck there and updated everybody when people came out.”

Ms Ball-Burgess said that she had visited the Dusit complex, which was “pretty much around the corner”.

She added: “We went to Dusit as a family for a chocolate festival about two years ago, so it is a place that I go to once in a while.”

Ms Ball-Burgess said the attack triggered memories of a 2013 attack she was caught in the middle of.

She was forced to hide in a bathroom as terrorists from the same Somalia-based Al-Shabab terrorist organisation behind the Dusit attack stormed the city’s Westgate mall.

She said: “It was like Westgate all over again.”

Ms Ball-Burgess added: “I don’t know if I should have watched the news — it kind of made me think of the Westgate mall attack.”

She said that the Dusit complex remained on lockdown as anti-terror forces combed the area and city residents tried to get back to a normal life.

Ms Ball-Burgess added: “The phrase now is always ‘it’s so good to see you’, ‘I’m glad to see you’, ‘I’m glad you are alive’, ‘I’m glad you weren’t injured’. That will be going on for a while.”

She said that people had asked how the Dusit area, which has tight security, could have been attacked.

Ms Ball-Burgess added: “After Westgate happened, things really changed in Kenya as far as security is concerned, and yet five years later this happened.”

She said that she also feared for the safety of her 11 and 13-year-old sons.

Ms Ball-Burgess added: “I didn’t grow up in Bermuda thinking about terrorism or if I would go the mall and be shot up.

“Now as a Bermudian living in Nairobi that’s a conversation we’ve had to have.

“Even today my 11-year-old son asked me ‘is it okay that we go to football practice today? Will we be safe?’”

But Ms Ball-Burgess said that she has no intention of leaving her adopted homeland.

She added: “Bad things happen all over the world and it’s not necessarily a time to run or move because of that. There are so many more reasons to live in this place.”

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Published Jan 19, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 19, 2019 at 7:32 am)

Bermudian relives horror of Nairobi attack

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