MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Saturday’s horrible violence that terrorized a Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall has landed a world away. The terrible death toll is being felt on the tranquil Collegeville campus of St. John’s Preparatory School.
“We’ve seen lots of hugs, we’ve seen lots of pats on the back, lots of consoling words,” said principal Matt Reichert.
Students at the private middle and high school started their day not in classrooms, but in an auditorium prayer service. They came together as a show of support for two sisters from Kenya and another student from Ghana.
The girls lost either a grandfather, an uncle or neighbors in Saturday’s bloody siege by al-Shabaab and al-Qaida linked terrorists.
“Knowing something terrible like this happens in a place they are so familiar with…it’s unsettling not only for them but all of us,” Reichert said.
Twenty-five percent of St. John’s enrollment is comprised of international students. So when the news of the terror attack hit, Reichert sent a letter to all parents and alumni asking for their prayers and support.
He adds that due to the school’s large international student body, anytime something big happens around the globe the administration is prepared for local ties.
In the school’s office and auditorium are reminders of the Benedictine values to help those in need. Suddenly, those values are now being played out among peers.
“When one person rejoices we all rejoice, when one person suffers we all suffer,” Reichert said.
For now, the three students are communicating with their families and friends back in Kenya and Ghana through Skype and other social media platforms.
Because the situation has been so fluid as government forces battled with the terrorists, it’s still too soon to determine if the girls will be returning home to be closer to their families.
Susie Jones Interviews Jill Pauly, The Director of Communications for St. John’s