It was supposed to be an adventurous trip that Anne Karanja would live to remember.
Mrs. Karanja’s husband of 35 years, John Karanja, had paid for her air ticket to visit their daughter in Canada. It was the perfect gift for the recently retired public servant as she turned 60.
“I had never taken her out so I felt I had to do something for her,” said Mr. Karanja.
The trip came about after Caroline Nduta invited her parents for a visit. Caroline, who worked as an accountant, had secured Canadian citizenship in 2017.
The plan, he said, was for his wife to stay in Canada for three months. But the trip was extended to six months.
“My idea was that she comes home with my grandchildren for the Easter holidays,” he said.
That is how Anne, her daughter Caroline and her three children left Ontario, Canada, on Saturday, their hearts yearning to be reunited with Karanja in Nakuru.
But they never made it home.
The last communication that Karanja recalls was a text from 34-year-old Caroline that said, “I am excited (to come home) but I also have this fear in me”.
This was two hours before she boarded the ill-fated flight ET 302/10 that crashed six minutes after take-off in Addis Ababa.
The plane went down killing all 157 aboard, among them 32 Kenyans.
At this point, Karanja pauses, lost for words. His eyes, partly hidden behind smudged lenses, express a hurt that words cannot express.
“I have never been away from my wife for more than five days. Even when I used to work in Embu, I would go home every Thursday,” he said.
Karanja says his wife was everything to him - a mentor, friend to his family and confidant. On several occasions, she had come through for him in ways that no one else would have.
In one incident, he recalled how she refunded nine-months salary that his employer had demanded after he was paid erroneously when he was on study leave.
“I don’t know how to live without her. Some people say it’s God’s will, but I don’t want to question. But I know one day I will meet up with God - we all will - and I will ask him,” he said.
At first, Karanja said he thought little about the fact that an aircraft had crashed. “I assumed we have direct flights from Kenya to Ontario, Canada, just like to the US. So I knew they could not be in Ethiopia.”
By Sunday 9 am, the family was at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s arrival section waiting for the arrival of a dear wife, daughter, and three adorable grandchildren.
When their flight was listed as canceled on the flight information display system, the family did not pay it any thought.
Karanja’s son, Kevin, says that it was not until 4 pm when they confirmed that their kin had died in the plane crash.
Two of the grandchildren, ages four years and nine months old, were not listed as Kenyans because one was born in Canada and the other in the US, which makes them citizens of those countries.
Yesterday, Karanja’s home in Kabatini village, Bahati, was a hive of activity as neighbors and relatives visited to condole with the family.
A neighbor, Martin Muchiri, recalled how they had prepared a welcoming party for Karanja’s family.
“We had organized a small party to welcome mama, her daughter, and grandchildren. We bought a goat. This is so painful,” said Mr. Muchiri.