By PETER ORENGO
The children sat next to or on the laps of their widowed parents, the grief of a lost father or mother searing and unbearable.
But some of the children, left either motherless or fatherless, following last Sunday’s chopper crash in Ngong, were too young to comprehend the grief masking the face of their surviving parents.
They also could not understand why tears flowed down the cheeks of the adults, who usually exhort them not to cry. All around the Holy Family Basilica, where the requiem mass for late Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti was held last Friday, the sense of loss hung in the air as eyes remained riveted on the four caskets bearing the remains of the two sets of pilots and bodyguards who died with him.
It was the country’s turn, as well as that of top public leaders, who on Saturday buried Saitoti in Kingela, and Sunday bade farewell to his former Assistant minister Joshua Ojode, to join the families of the other killed in the crash for prayers.
Bedecked with flowers, their caskets on top of which stood their portraits taken while on duty and in full police regalia including epullates and medals of rank and honour, were arranged in a line in the front of the church’s pews.
Two caskets bore the remains of Captain Nancy Gituanja and Captain Luke Oyugi, the two pilots who went down with the secret of what befell their helicopter on the flight to Ndhiwa on June 10.
The other two bore the mortal remains of Inspector Joshua Tonkei and Sergeant Thomas Murimi, the two expert VIP guards assigned to Saitoti, and who went down with the man whose life they were tasked with securing.
Grief-struck well wishers, top Government officials, members of the public and police officers joined bereaved families of the four officers who perished in the crash.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and a few cabinet ministers also joined hundreds of mourners at the church service.
The interdenominational mass was conducted by Right Reverend Bishop Philip Anyolo of the disciplined forces, while hymns were led by the General Service Unit (GSU) training school choir.
During eulogies, the congregation was told how in a gesture of primonition Inspector Tonkei a week before his death gathered his close family members and told them that he had survived two plane mishaps and was sure he could not survive a third one.
“He told them how he had served the country with humility and even survived two plane crashes. The faimily were taken by surprise since they could not comprehend the meaning of that speech. A week later he was dead in a helicopter crash,” said Martin ole Kamuaro, who read Tonkei’s eulogy.
Kalonzo, who led the Government delegation at the funeral mass delivered President Kibaki’s speech.