The morning clouds hung dark and heavy, as if the skies were preparing to weep in rain. Friends and relatives cried, some sobbing softly into the itinerary that had photos of their dead children.
Others openly wailed, overwhelmed by the heart shattering emotions that defined the requiem mass held yesterday to celebrate lives of eight children who perished in the Precious Talent Academy tragedy.
“I think I am going to die. I feel like someone has placed something heavy on my lungs. I cannot breathe,” one parent whispered, hands delicately placed on the chest as if in prayer.
A Red Cross official reached out to her and gently rubbed her shoulders. She let out a slow painful cry that rocked her entire frame, almost knocking her off her seat.
In a separate tent, a group of pupils sniffed and cried, talking in low tones in memory of their departed classmates. The photos of the dead lay framed on tables draped in white and green, their young ages plastered beneath their toothy smiles.
The oldest was 15. The youngest was seven. Sombre music and piano sounds filtered through the chilly morning. Shaky voices choking with emotions struggled to sing along to songs whose theme was that even in darkness, God’s light still penetrates through the cracks.
When little Abil Asha Muthoni from Mombasa stood to recite a poem titled: “Oh death, where is thy sting….” more tears flowed. “In one brief moment, you all slipped away into the other world…the fact that you will never laugh or play is so painful,” read part of her poem.
Shanon Munini, a pupil at Precious Talent gave a poetic tribute, with a promise that the disaster has only pushed them to work harder.
When Isaac Idambo, one of the parents stood, the first thing he did was call the dead by name: Teddious Kinyanjui, Miriam Itago, Jackline Gesare, Nevence Kembunto, Germine Njeru, Harriet Ndunge, Whitney Wekesa and his own daughter Emunah Kasandi.
There was momentary silence, his voice vibrating across the packed Telcom Grounds where the interdenominational prayers were being held; a few kilometres from where the disaster occured.
Then he broke in song. So slow, so sorrowful, calling on God to descend and fondle over the breaking hearts. Someone from the dais where the parents were seated, let out a piercing cry that seemed to awaken another wave of tears.
Pupils sang about the uncertainty of life. A soft drizzle started falling, as if on cue to synchronise with the grief.
Teacher Sammy Ndege touched on the limbo that the future of the school has been thrown into.
His speech was punctuated by cheers and applause from parents carrying posters protesting lack of schools in Ng’andu, Dagoretti.
“Give us a school or kill all our children!” the crowd chanted, their eyes fixed on the leaders in attendance.
Dagoretti South MP John Kiarie promised that temporary structures will be constructed to absorb the pupils. Deputy President William Ruto, in a speech read on his behalf, said the government will audit all school infrastructure. He donated Sh800,000 to help with the funeral expenses.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga came bearing condolences from President Uhuru Kenyatta. When the leaders had left, and the crowd dispersed, the parents remained as if frozen in place.
Pastor David Njeru remembered his daughter Germine. He called her jewel, because of her cheeky and infectious laughter. Anne Vihenda talked of her daughter Miriam who died and left her twin behind.
“She watched her dying. They were in the same class, and when the building fell, she saw her struggling and dying,” she said, her eyes swollen, tears dried on her cheeks. When the ground had cleared and parents were left with nothing but the memories of their children, they made way to the table where the photos were spread, looked on and started their walk back home.
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