“No parent should have to bury a child. No mother should have to bury a son. Mothers are not meant to bury sons. It is not in the natural order of things…”
These were the words of American playwright and Pulitzer-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis in his book, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
It is this unnatural order of things that the parents of Moi Girls School Nairobi are facing this tough week, just days after the dreaded phone call on Saturday morning.
As if grieving their girls was not enough punishment, the frustration these parents have gone through in the last five days have not only been horrific, but also heart-breaking.
For many parents, it began with a string of missed calls — some up to 10, — hundreds of messages going round that the school dormitory had caught fire.
The drive to school on that busy Saturday morning at the end of the month when all roads were clogged must have been very difficult.
Several parents interviewed by media said that on arrival at school at around 8am, they were not allowed in but instead were met with adamant guards who were under instructions not to open the gates.
CHAOS AND CONFUSION
When the gates were finally opened, parents literally spilled into the tarmacked Moi Girls compound to meet their terrified daughters who had lived through a night of tragedy.
By the time the media arrived at the school, they found chaos and confusion, parents being tossed from one class to another, looking for their daughters, calling out their names and asking friends if they had spotted so and so.
Many parents were not lucky that day. They did not find their daughters, to whom they had just said goodbye only a week before when they reported to school on Monday, August 28.
With the school giving so little information about the whereabouts of their children, parents sought to students for conflicting versions of their daughter’s whereabouts.
While some were told that their daughters were spotted entering the school van to be ferried to hospitals, others were told their children had jumped from the first floor fleeing the fire.
One can only imagine the pain of parents who had to go through lists of students admitted in various hospitals only to find that their children’s names were missing.
But perhaps the most heart-wrenching aspect of the whole ordeal was when the families were given a chance to view the charred bodies of their daughters.
Emotions ran high as mothers screamed and fathers wailed at the sight of their girls.
No amount of prayer, consoling, counselling or debriefing could ease the pain of a parent losing a child.
Some mothers just wanted to be left alone, others did not want to be spoken to, while others sat there, lost in their thoughts.
Journalists had a very tough time covering the tragedy. There is never a right way to cover grief and shock.
There is no formulae to approach a grieving family for an interview without feeling like a heartless person, but these stories have to be told by someone.
After the parents submitted the DNA samples for testing, they were asked to wait “between three to four weeks” before they could be allowed to bury their children.
Now begins another long wait for distraught parents to confirm the bad news they already know. It is akin to reliving a nightmare over and over.