About the Author: Joann Lockard serves as Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda.
Thursday morning dawns in Kampala as life slowly returns to normal at the U.S. Embassy, 80 hours after the twin suicide bombings ripped through crowds of World Cup fans on Sunday night. Yet, it seems like weeks since 11:00 p.m., July 11, 2010. After putting the kids to bed, I started preparing myself for the following Monday morning -- we needed to make the final arrangements for our democracy speaker who would arrive that night, get all the articles and photos up onto the website from the ambassador's trip to the West, and start preparing for the deluge that would be the African Union (AU) Summit the following week. Then an explosion in the distance made me jump. My oldest daughter came downstairs asking, "What was that noise, Mommy?" My husband sent her back to bed saying it was a car backfiring -- although we both looked at each other wondering what it could have been.
An hour or so later, the phone started ringing and the security message -- all Americans should return to their homes -- started flashing across our cell phones. I turned on the TV news and loaded up Twitter and various online news sites looking for information, despite the fact that the Internet was now painfully slow. Breaking news tickers started to run across the TV screen -- followed by horrible images. I kept the embassy's leadership informed of rumors as they started to appear on the web: "Four Peace Corps Volunteers,""More bombings," etcetera. Then the press started calling: "Could I confirm?""What was the U.S. Government doing?""Who was responsible?""Were any Americans among the dead or injured?"
Our consular officers and security officers were similarly swamped; running every which way, ensuring that American citizens were accounted for, safe, and receiving the medical care they needed. In addition, they were helping our Ugandan friends and colleagues to take the necessary first steps in preparation for what would be, undoubtedly, a long and intense investigation. No one slept for 36 hours.
Now that things have started to calm a little, the injured Americans have been medevac'd, the in-depth investigations started with the help of U.S. law enforcement teams, and the flood of 200 media calls has slowed to five or six per day, I have emerged from crisis mode and have allowed myself to contemplate the larger issues. Now, I'm angry.
What right had these murderers to perpetrate such an unspeakable and cowardly act? The victims were just soccer (football) fans celebrating what was rightfully the pinnacle of Africa's triumphant first World Cup. They were mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. They had no political or religious agenda to promote. They were human beings.
Over the course of the next few weeks, pundits and politicians will undoubtedly try to explain this incident or connect it to other world events. But there is no political excuse for such an act. There is no religion in the world that condones the pre-meditated, cold-blooded murder of innocent, unarmed soccer fans.
In Uganda, people have lived through unspeakable horror over the last several decades: From Idi Amin's reign to the brutality of the Lord's Resistance Army in the North. I am saddened when I talk to my Ugandan friends and colleagues, who say they are now scared to go shopping or even go to church or mosque. But this is what these terrorists want. They want to deprive us of our freedom to live our lives, to worship the way we want, to build peaceful futures for our children.
Now is the time to make a choice between what is easy and what is right. If I choose not to attend church because I'm afraid, I have taken the easy choice. If I don't let my children go to school or summer camp, I have made the easy choice. If I choose to give up my dream of building bridges of understanding between the United States and people around the world and move my family home, I will be taking the easy choice.
Now is the time for choosing between what is right and what is easy. I hope I will be strong enough, together with my Ugandan friends, to choose what is right. Our children and grandchildren will reap the rewards or consequences of this decision.
Related Entry: Bombings in Uganda