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Posted: Friday, December 20th 2013 at 11:50am

Q&A: Terror on the doorstep - a Gainesville woman's story

By Ken Stanford Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
click to enlarge
Mary London Carswell with young Kenyan.
GAINESVILLE - Imagine having a front row seat to an act of terrorism, such as the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombings or any number of such acts that seem to occur somewhere in the world every couple of months?

Now image that you are nearly 8,000 miles from home when such an event occurs.

Well, that's just the situation a young Gainesville woman found herself in earlier this fall when a group of terrorists stormed a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, where she had been living and working for less than a month.

The attack occurred Sept. 21 and the siege was not over until three days later after claiming 72 lives and leaving more than 200 people wounded.

Mary London Carswell, 24, is a Lakeview Academy graduate who graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., in May. Four months later she found herself in Nairobi. She has been home since Nov. 27 but will return to Kenya Jan. 9.

Recently, Mary London, the daughter of Will and Elizabeth Carswell, answered a few questions about her work in Kenya and the impact the attack on the mall had on her, her colleagues, their safety and their movement around the country:

*Why did you go to Kenya?

My job is there. I'm in full time ministry and run an internship for college students in the U.S. (working for an organization called Choose to Invest.)

*When did you arrive in Nairobi?

I got to Nairobi on September 3.

*How long after that did the attack occur?

Three weeks.

*How did you find out about it?

The news, on the TV.

*How far were you from the mall?

Eight miles.

*Do you live and work in the same complex or does your work take you into outlying areas?

When I work in Nairobi, my house and office are on the same compound, but we often take trips out to the rural areas of Kenya, which are outside of the city.

*Had you ever visited/shopped at the mall?

No, personally, I have not.

*What was the first thing that crossed your mind upon hearing about the attack?

I was scared for myself and my co-workers at first, but more worried about the country of Kenya in general. The government is corrupt and things like this are not handled well. There was a huge chance that it could've evolved into something huge solely because of the reaction of the government and citizens. Praise God that it didn't!

*What instructions, if any, were you and the others in your group given by the people in charge of your safety?

We had to remain inside of our compound for a good week or maybe even longer.

*How many were in your group?

There were 14 Americans on ground - eight interns and six full-time staff. The interns and two full time staff left Kenya shortly after the attack.

*Who is charged with your security - the military, regular police, private security guards?

Our compound has private security guards.

*Did you ever feel in danger prior to the incident?

Sometimes. You just always have to be on guard. You can't carelessly walk around there like you do here.

*What about afterward?

About the same, honestly. It took me a while to get used to getting back into the normal swing of things and going to the grocery store or malls.

*How long was it before things returned to normal?

They heightened security at all public places for like a week or two after the attack, but then they got lazy, and everything went back to normal.

*Do you have any qualms about returning?

Not at all. If I were going to Kenya to feel safe and comfortable, I'd be going to the wrong country. My reasoning for going is to know Jesus and to make Him known, which makes it all worth it.

*Is this kind of work something you are planning on doing just in the short-term or will you be making a career of it?

That's a hard question to answer. I'm really just waking up and saying "Ok, Lord, what is obedience for today?" and walking in what He tells me. As far as anything (past) that, I'm simply not (ready) to think or worry about it. I know that for today, this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

( Carswell can be reached at marylondon@choosetoinvest.org )

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Mary London Carswell's mother is the daughter of the late Jacobs Media President and CEO, John W. Jacobs, Jr. Jacobs Media is the parent company of AccessNorthGa.com.
Associated Categories: Local/State News

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