Sunday, September 22, 2013
Yesterday I was going to meet BF just for a quick cup of coffee in a mall in our area. He had some banking to do. When i got there he was just finishing banking at one bank, so I went to buy airtime for my mobile (not sure what made me buy that, but it helped later). AT that time the lights went off, so I bought the airtime from the vendor at the light of the computer screen and we laughed about it, since this happens frequently.
Then I got out BF was finished with that bank, but still had another to go to. Since I saw a friend in an open coffee shop near the entrance we went to say hi to her, chatted for 2 minutes, then we went upstairs to go to the other bank (something was urging me to move on, otherwise we would have probably sat down for a coffee with her). Just as we entered the bank I heard a big bang like something big falling over (that was a grenade downstairs), and saw people running, next thing gunshots started.
The bank reacted very quickly, pulled everyone nearby on the corridor inside, locked the doors. First we went to shelter near the counters, where a wall protected us, but the shooting went on & on, so the bank manager decided to open up the strong room with the safety deposit lockers for us. WE all piled in there and the waiting started. We were very safe there, but could hear the gun shots. We had a plain cloth police reservist with us, who got us information and someone managed to switch the TV in the banking hall to a news station. From the corridor the men could peep on the TV, that way we had at least some info.
Interestingly another branch manager from the same bank but branch in a different town was there as well. The 2 branch managers together made decisions quickly and people remainedd calm, even the children. I think what helped was the fact that we didn't quite know how bad it was and that there were so many people injured and shot.
We sat for 5 hours, but after 3 hours we heard about people being evacuated from other floors. Our floor has to be last, since it had not direct emergency exit and the stair cases were not safe.
I was panicky, since I could not reach my friend whom we had left downstairs waiting for her coffee, right there were everything started.
But BF helped me focus on ourselves.
When the forces came now on our floor to evacuate the place and the shooting came closer, the bank managers quickly moved the women & children behind the counters now into the anteroom for the actual safe. For about 1 hour I had no contact with BF, but I was busy calming some people down, talking to parents with their shellshocked children and getting the children to talk.
When we were told we are getting out now, but have to walk out with our hands in the air, so that the Forces know we are harmless, I saw BF in line (we had to queue in single file), so I knew he is ahead of me. Just when we left teh bank door and entered the corridor and realized the troups where going to fleece us to ensure none of the terrorists was among us, the shooting started again a floor below. There is a big open void in that mall. So some girls next to me freaked out. I took one girls hand (as we were sticking them in the air) and we ran together, the Troups were standing along the corridor showing us where to run along the walls & encouraged us. When we got to the next floor, which has an adjacent roof top parking, we were searched again for weapons, but they kept telling us "you are safe now". Wehn we got out in the parkign the rfirst thing I saw was lots of Red Cross Volunteers & the head of Disaster Response ( a known figure in Nairobi) was right us telling us that we are safe & we should smile. They had ambulances there to take us down the ramp & out of the area. I didn't know Nairobi now has that many ambulances & these days the teams on them are well trained. That was not a given 15 years ago when I worked as a EMT.
When we got off the ambulance we walked to the next shopping mall up the road, which is where the policed had cordoned off the area & BF's son & grandson picked us.
As I am writing this - 21 hours after it all started, the "only" ones left are the hostages. We still don;t know how many they are. But apparently they are being kept in the Supermarket, hopefully they are being given some food.
Being locked inside a bank vault for 5 hours with now way to get out, makes you realize that in such situation there are no toilets reachable......
Please pray for the different Forces (Kenyan Defence Forces, Mossad, CIA, British Army and probably others as well) for wisdom on how to handle the situation, pray for the hostages for courage & safety.
Al Shabab a islamic terror group has said they are responsible. They did another similar attack on a Mall in Mogadishu, Somalia at the same time, but information on that is very scanty