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'Those Images Will Haunt Us Forever:' Vigils Honor Slain Garissa Christians as Mourners Insist Victims Were Not Just a Number — #147 Not Just a Number

'Those Images Will Haunt Us Forever:' Vigils Honor Slain Garissa Christians as Mourners Insist Victims Were Not Just a Number — #147 Not Just a Number

People hold wooden crosses, symbolizing the people killed by gunmen at Garissa University College, as they pray during a memorial vigil at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 7, 2015. Kenyan university students marched in the capital on Tuesday to demand more security from the government after gunmen killed nearly 150 people at a campus in the eastern town of Garissa last week. A citizens group planned to hold a vigil in Nairobi's main park later in the evening, tapping growing public frustration over security in the wake of the attack claimed by al Shabaab radical Islamists based in neighboring Somalia. | (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
People carry wooden crosses, symbolizing the people killed by gunmen at the Garissa University College, during a memorial vigil at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 7, 2015. Kenyan university students marched in the capital on Tuesday to demand more security from the government after gunmen killed nearly 150 people at a campus in the eastern town of Garissa last week. A citizens group planned to hold a vigil in Nairobi's main park later in the evening, tapping growing public frustration over security in the wake of the attack claimed by al-Shabaab radical Islamists based in neighboring Somalia. | (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Kenyans attend a memorial vigil for the victims of an attack by gunmen at the Garissa University College, at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 7, 2015. Kenyan university students marched in the capital on Tuesday to demand more security from the government after gunmen killed nearly 150 people at a campus in the eastern town of Garissa last week. A citizens group planned to hold a vigil in Nairobi's main park later in the evening, tapping growing public frustration over security in the wake of the attack claimed by al-Shabaab radical Islamists based in neighboring Somalia. | (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
A woman lights a candle on a wooden cross during a memorial vigil for the people killed by gunmen at the Garissa University College, at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 7, 2015. Kenyan university students marched in the capital on Tuesday to demand more security from the government after gunmen killed nearly 150 people at a campus in the eastern town of Garissa last week. A citizens group planned to hold a vigil in Nairobi's main park later in the evening, tapping growing public frustration over security in the wake of the attack claimed by al-Shabaab radical Islamists based in neighboring Somalia. | (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Wooden crosses are placed on the ground, symbolizing the people killed during an attack by gunmen at the Garissa University College, at the "Freedom Corner" in Kenya's capital Nairobi April 7, 2015. Kenyan university students marched in the capital on Tuesday to demand more security from the government after gunmen killed nearly 150 people at a campus in the eastern town of Garissa last week. A citizens group planned to hold a vigil in Nairobi's main park later in the evening, tapping growing public frustration over security in the wake of the attack claimed by al-Shabaab radical Islamists based in neighboring Somalia. | (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
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Kenyans across the country are honoring in vigils the 148 murdered people, mostly Christian students, who lost their lives in the terror attack last week at Garissa University College. Friends and relatives have started a campaign titled #147notjustanumber, named after the original death count, where they are reminding the world that the victims were real people with real hopes and dreams that were taken away.

The campaign, which has spread throughout social media, has focused on revealing the faces of the victims, by sharing their stories and memories from loved ones.

"I can't even look at pictures of the people killed without crying," said 32-year-old Mary Wambui from Nakuru, according to CNN.

"They were just children. They were trying to make a better life for themselves. Some were first to go to college in their communities. They died trying to get an education."

A relative carries a picture of a student killed in Thursday's attack by gunmen, at the Chiromo Mortuary in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 6, 2015. The Kenyan air force has destroyed two al-Shabaab camps in Somalia, it said on Monday, in the first major military response since the Islamist group massacred students at a Kenyan university last week. | (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

"Those images will haunt us forever," added 29-year-old Martin Otieno from Nairobi. "As a nation, we should never let this happen. We just can't."

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The attack was carried out by four gunmen who separated Christian from Muslim students before murdering the Christians. Terror group al-Shabaab has taken responsibility for the attack, and the Kenyan government has responded by launching airstrikes against its bases in neighboring Somalia.

A Garissa University student who survived the massacre told Standard Digital News that al-Shabaab terrorists were able to coax the female students out of their rooms by "saying that their religion did not allow the killing of women."

Francis Gicobi, a second year Bachelor of Education student, said "the terrorists shouted outside the womens' hostel: 'Kama hamtaki kufa, tokeni hapa nje nyote kwani kulingana na dini yetu, hatuui wasichana na kwa hivyo mtoke taratibu kwa gorofa hadi hapa chini, au mpigie baba zenu simu waje wakuokoe.' (If you don't want to die, come outside. According to our religion, we do not kill girls. Walk down the stairs to the ground level, or alternatively call your fathers to come and save you)."

"The female students walked to the ground floor of the storied building only for the attackers to indiscriminately spray them with bullets," the Standard reports.

Hundreds gathered at one of the vigils, at Nairobi's Uhuru Park, where organizers unloaded 147 crosses from a truck and planted them in the ground. The crowd then read the names of the victims, and sang the national anthem.

"We need to talk about the bright futures cut short," said Boniface Mwangi, one of the organizers. "Today's meeting will be a calling to say, 'We need to remember the 147; they are not just a number.' We are trying to avoid remembering these people as just a number."

A number of social media users have criticized the lack of media coverage in the West about the slaughter, arguing that following the initial news reports before Easter, the story has largely been put aside.

"147 people were massacred and the world remained silent," wrote on Twitter Caroline Hullinger.

"This is important #147notjustanumber Name and mourn the *people* who have been killed, don't reserve that honour for their murderers," added Isabella Cawthorn.

Pope Francis has also condemned what he called indifference and "complicit silence" to the attack on Christians.

"Today we see our brothers persecuted, decapitated, crucified for their faith in you, under our eyes and often with our complicit silence," the pope said on Good Friday, the day after the attack.

Some mourners have said that the vigils and the effort to remember the names, faces and stories of the victims are bringing them solace.

"With the previous attacks, there's been a sense of the victims just being numbers," said Doreen Areri. "The idea behind this is to have faces behind the numbers. We need to hear their stories, their dreams."

Kellie Murungi added that "we shouldn't have people walking around with scars."

"In 2010, I was in a grenade attack in downtown Nairobi and every time there's a terrorist attack, it hits too close to home," Murungi said. " It's not just happened to me, but many others."

Kenyan university students participate in a demonstration against an attack by gunmen at the Garissa University College campus, along the streets of the capital Nairobi, April 7, 2015. The Kenyan air force has destroyed two al-Shabaab camps in Somalia, it said on Monday, in the first major military response since the Islamist group massacred students at the Garissa University College campus last week. | (Photo: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

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