5 Horrifying Lessons From The Day My School Killed Someone

What’s the worst thing your school has ever done? Removed the vending machines? Canceled Taco Tuesday? Went with “Tropical Paradise” for a prom theme, instead of your suggestion, “Mad Max World”? Consider yourself lucky: Diana Achieng, a student at Kenya’s Strathmore University, wishes she had those kinds of problems. Her school ordered security forces to open fire on campus in order to simulate a terrorist attack back in November 2015. Sadly, while the attack itself was fake, the dozens of injuries and one fatality it caused were all too real. We asked Diana to tell us more about what happened on that day. She said that …


There Was Basically No Warning That It Was A Drill

Nairobi Wire

“On the day of the attack, I had just left the Students Centre to go for lunch when a friend I was with received a call from someone at the school,” Diana recalls. “The caller was running out of there because there were gunshots coming from the Students Centre, where I’d been just a few moments ago. A couple of armed masked men wearing white overalls were shooting going up the stairs. … We decided to check Twitter, which is where we finally found out what was going on: It was a security drill.”

That’s right, Strathmore decided to announce their drill on Twitter after it already began, which was possibly the least helpful thing ever. They might as well have announced it through MySpace.

Kenna Claude via Media Max Network
“Didn’t you guys get the messages we left on your answering machines?”

And you might be thinking: “Well, duh, you have to keep these sorts of drills a surprise” but … do you? Do you really? We don’t conduct fire drills this way, so why keep a fake terrorist attack a secret? Doesn’t that make it more of a terror test than a drill? And if so, what’s the point of that? Actually, the better question is: why didn’t Strathmore at least tell the staff about it?

Diana explains: “The majority of the university community did not know of this, nor did they receive proper training or information. The drill was carried out without the knowledge of the school management. Apparently even the vice chancellor himself didn’t know about it.”

Nairobi News
“HR Department? Yeah, I wanted to ask if it’s possible to fire someone more than once.” -The vice chancellor, probably.

The practice of replacing drills with pop quizzes can now be found all over the world: Africa, Europe, all parts of the United States — and it often doesn’t end well.

(Another) case in point:

In 2013, the Small Middle School in Austin, Texas, conducted an unscheduled lockdown where students and teachers were shuffled off into classrooms while volunteers rattled the handles and banged on doors, scaring the piss out of everyone. One teacher (who had no idea this was all fake) reportedly suffered a meltdown, which may seem extreme, but remember this drill was conducted almost one year to the date after the Sandy Hook shooting.

WhisperToMe/Wiki Commons
And the Sandy Hook truthers were already buying replacement caps lock and exclamation point keys in anticipation.

And the Strathmore drill took place mere months after the al-Shabaab militant group attacked Kenya’s Garissa University, killing 147 students. It’s like they’re trying to make their students immune to trauma by repeatedly traumatizing them. It’s a bold strategy. Let’s see how it works out …


Almost Immediately, People Panicked And Started Jumping Out Of Windows


Almost as soon as the fake attack commenced, people began jumping out of the goddamn windows to “safety.”

James Smart/Twitter
Meanwhile, inside: “Where’d everybody go?”

“People found all manner of hiding spots,” Diana told us. “Inside supply closets, under desks in offices and kitchens, in bathroom stalls, and on window ledges. Every place was viable. … Some students had chosen to find a way to escape despite being on the upper floors, and people on the third floor, where the ‘shooters’ were, chose to jump instead of losing their lives. Can you blame them?”

Nairobi News
No, we’re too busy feeling lightheaded from looking at these pictures.

The good news is that most of the people who jumped survived the fall with only broken bones and such. But one cafeteria worker died after leaping from the third floor and suffering extensive head injuries.

“The confirmed numbers of injured in the hospital were 30, according to the news, but this does not come close to the real number, as many have not reported their injuries. Emotional and psychological trauma has not been accounted for. There were two people in critical care, but it was confirmed that one 33-year-old staff member had passed away. Esther. Her name was Esther Kidambi, and she was one of the sweetest cafeteria ladies. … She will be missed.”

via Nairobi Wire

Hey, what’s a few fatalities in the name of pretend preparedness? Think about it: If everybody’s dead or in the hospital, there’ll be nobody left at the school for terrorists to shoot! Flawless.


The Fallout Lasted For A Long Time


The human brain isn’t like a switch that you can flip from “fight or flight” to “everything’s cool.” It’s more like a rag that absorbs panic: It usually takes some time to wring it dry.

“Shortly after the attack, the pictures begun to surface,” Diana recalls. “Pictures of people hanging out of the windows from the upper floors of the building. Pictures of people climbing out of the nearby river, because it was the way they found out of school. Pictures of people climbing the outer walls of the school. Many of these people still did not know that it was a drill. Those in hiding refused to come out when the officers called to them because they were sure those were terrorists trying to convince them to get out. They simply prayed for a quick death,” she says. The very idea that their school was responsible for this whole nightmare would have been just too insane to believe.

Jared AOL/Twitter
“Oh come on, terrorists, you can’t think of a better lie than ‘It’s just a drill’?”

Over time, the officials and police forces (most of which also weren’t told about the drill) managed to talk people down off of ledges, but the situation remained tense for the next few days.

Salaton Njau/Daily Nation
“No, no, no … it wasn’t real, so you weren’t really scared for your life!”

“Shock. Anger. Confusion. Immobility. These are the various things we were feeling as we waited for the news, unable to tell whether we should drive back to school,” Diana told us. “Eventually, I was able to get through to someone and confirm that all my classmates were OK. But we had to wait for the evening news to truly understand what happened that day.”

The villains of this piece are obvious: Whoever thought it was a good idea to fake a terrorist attack. But nobody actually thinks they’re the villain, even when they’re going out of their way to attack clearly traumatized victims for no apparent reason. Maybe they … deserve it? For some reason?


People Began Harassing The Victims

Nairobi News

When the dust settled, the injured and the dead were accounted for, and the magnitude of the tragedy truly set in, there was only one thing left to do: Let the internet come in and shit all over everything.

“Some people simply could not resist blaming the victims,” Diana explains. “There were many posts on social media about how the students ‘should not have panicked’ or ‘you people are stupid for panicking’ and ‘those who died, it was out of their own stupidity.’ Seriously. Someone actually posted that. It’s so disrespectful to all of us, but especially to Esther.”

“If it’s a legitimate panic, the human body has ways to fight off gravity.”

“Imagine yourself in your normal day. Maybe you are at school, or at work, or even in a mall. And then you start hearing screaming and gun shots coming from right outside the door of the room where you are seated. Or right next to you on the right, if you are in an open area. Don’t tell anyone they shouldn’t have panicked, because I guarantee 90 percent of you would have done the same thing,” she says. And we estimate that the other 10 percent would probably try strategically soiling themselves, in the hopes that the terrorists would turn away in disgust.


Life Goes On, Somehow …

Nairobi Wire

After the attack, eight university staff members offered to resign, and the family of Esther Kidambi filed a lawsuit against the school. But most of the students just wanted things to get back to normal …

Nairobi News
Instant ramen would never taste the same again.

“I began to contemplate the meaning of this,” Diana says. “What would happen to everyone who was affected? What would happen to me? What did this say about my school, my country, and my continent? This was a big deal for me, because my whole thing is this project that I carry out, telling people about the many ways in which they are mistaken about the image and stereotypes they hold about Africa. … The university management called a meeting the next day to explain to the students what happened and take responsibility for what happened. They have undertaken to pay for all medical expenses and provide counseling.”

Which was actually a surprisingly stand-up move. You don’t expect the same people who thought pretending to shoot at students was a good idea to also embrace personal responsibility. That doesn’t mean it’s over, though: “There’s a lot of sadness, anger, and some anxiety. People have developed genuine security concerns. A few months after this incident, there was a bit of an accident on the first floor. We just heard someone shouting from downstairs, but the wide-eyed, wild-look panic clearly showed what everyone thought it was at first. We were all ready to run/jump off ledges. … Many people still have not come back to school. … Despite all this, people are genuinely trying to move on. There’s a sense of ‘we can get past this’ in the air. The anger is mostly directed at the administration, but toward each other, people are still very warm.”

Nairobi News
Especially when it comes to imagining ways for heavy things to hit the administrators in the crotch.

Diana Achieng’s book What It Means To Be African is about how thoroughly misled you are on the real Africa. Find her website here, or follow her on Instagram. Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Ways Things Change When Accused Of A School Shooting Plot and 5 Realities Of Mass Shootings Movies Don’t Prepare You For.

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