TALES OF COURAGE: I survived a terrorist attack

Wednesday August 15 2018

The future of my children worries me more than my pain.

Rebecca Wambui poses next to her stall. Her life has never been the same since the 1998 bomb blast in Kenya. PHOTO| TOM MWIRARIA 


  • I woke up the next morning in hospital.
  • I knew I was in hospital because of the sickening smell of disinfectant.
  • Do you have feedback on this story? Please email


I was on my way to Marikiti market when my life changed.

My seemingly incident-free Kenya Bus ride from home coincided with the August 1998 bomb blast and we all tried to rush out of the bus in panic when the bomb went off.

Later, I heard that it was the explosion from a hand grenade launched at the security officers.

A few minutes later, I heard loud bangs and screams ringed in the bus. I felt sweat drench my skin. Panic struck bus conductor asked us to lie down on the floor for our safety.

Many passengers ignored and scampered out others tried to leap out of the bus windows. I was also rising to get out when an explosion of unutterable power shattered my ears and I saw a torrent of pieces flying onto my face.

I fell backward and could taste blood in my mouth. I tried to cry for help but I couldn't.

The last thing I remember was someone saying: “She’s moving, she’s alive!” because I was drifting in and out of consciousness.

I woke up the next morning in Kenyatta Hospital. I knew I was in hospital because of the sickening smell of disinfectant.

I had multiple fractures on the left side of the ribs . Bloody wounds covered my face  and I was trapped in confusion trying to piece together the scattered and elusive memories.

Then I heard a soothing voice ask me if I knew where I was. All I could say was that I couldn’t see.

He (the doctor) encouraged me to remain strong.

All this time, my family had no idea what had happened to me but I later sent word to my husband and he came immediately.

The minute he saw me, he broke down into tears.

The doctor peeled off the bandage from my face the next day and the pain was excruciating.

But it was when he started waving his finger in front of my face and asking me if I could see it that I realised I could only see with my right eye.


An eye specialist did more tests and declared that the left eye was completely damaged. He said that I had ocular (eye) infections and orbital fractures and corneal scarring sustained by blunt trauma after being hit by glass projectiles.


The glass particles were embedded in the eye tissue.  

An X-ray revealed glass particles on my lungs.

The doctors said that the glass shards entered into my lungs though a deep cut in the neck. A surgical operation was not advisable since it could cause more damage to my lungs.

After almost three months in hospital, I was allowed to go back home. I stayed home for two days when a volcano of pain erupted in my stomach. I had developed stomach ulcers which I have been living with since then.

My life changed for the worse ever since the blast. My husband and pillar died ten years ago. I take care of our son Brian and my two girls on my own.

He’s a bright boy and wants to become an aeronautical engineer one day.

I sell groceries from a kibanda in Kiserian. On a good day, I make Sh150.

Before the disaster struck, I would make Sh15,000 per month from a leased acre of land in Kiserian.

I’m reminded of the pain in my body each time I lift a heavy object.

The doctors cautioned me from doing heavy tasks and exposure to cold lest the rib cage heaves up and pushes the glass fragments into vital organs.


I badly need the shards removed but I cannot afford the cost of a surgical operation. My in-laws supported me for a while but soon gave up. They thought I was just being lazy.

But the future of my children worries me more than my pain. My first born dropped out of baking school because of lack of school fees and my second born, who is a bright girl that wants to become a cardiologist but she may not go to Form Four because I don’t have money for her school fees.

I find it hard to forgive the terrorists because they ruined my life.

But I still pray for love and tolerance amongst all of us.


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