My 12-hour ordeal and swift rescue at Dusit hotel siege

Friday January 18 2019

DUSIT

Victims of the attack on DusitD2 complex in Nairobi rejoice after being reunited with their loved ones on January 15, 2019. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP 

NATION REPORTER
By NATION REPORTER
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On Tuesday, Nancy, one of hundreds of people who spent more than 12 hours in some of the buildings at 14 Riverside Drive, kept hope alive through text messages with family and friends, including the Nation.

Through her ordeal, the human side of the security forces shone through:

“As we wound up a meeting at our offices on 14 Riverside Drive on Tuesday, January 15, at about 3.30pm, I had only one thing on my mind: To dash out, beat the traffic jam and be home in time to receive my daughter when the school bus got to the gate.

We were exchanging farewell pleasantries when we heard a loud blast from the side of the river.

The natural reaction of most of my colleagues was to run to the windows. But from my security training, I warned them against this.

One said she had a child at Consolata School across the river and needed to be sure she was all right, while others were simply curious.

We decided to get out of the boardroom and leave. But, as we left, a security officer on the floor told us people were running out of the building.

STAMPEDE

This is when I realised we could be under attack. I ran back and picked up my handbag, but when I got to the stairs, there was pandemonium.

The young and old, the sick and healthy were all pushing each other.

I immediately started shouting, asking everyone not to push and not to run. "We will get out together, I told them".

We formed a single file and gave priority to the elderly and pregnant women.

On the second floor, we saw two of the attackers from our window. They had very big guns. I pointed to them: "Haya, ndio wale! Hebu waone!" (There they are!)

Coincidentally, one of the men looked up and our eyes met. He pointed his gun at us and fired. The bullet hit the window and bounced back.

PRAYER

We all took cover. I found myself under a table as explosions and gunshots rent the air. It was very scary.

I called my mother and told her we were under attack and asked her to keep us in prayer.

I started familiarising myself with my surroundings and I noticed a socket. Luckily I had my phone charger.

I immediately plugged in and put it in silent mode. I then sent out messages to several groups telling them we were under attack.

In the meantime the gunshots and explosions were all over. Sometimes the sound would be so close I'd say to myself: "Sasa nimepatikana (Now they've reached me).

Throughout, I was receiving messages of comfort and encouragement.

RESCUE

We kept this communication going and at some point the security officers contacted me wanting to know my exact location.

I gave them details and they assured me that they would reach us. They told us not to panic.

Some minutes after 10pm, the lights went off. I called one of the numbers in fear asking why the lights were off and once again they reassured me and said they would use the cover of darkness to get to us.

Sometime after 11pm, I heard voices and tried to hide further inside my little space, thinking they were next to me, ready to kill me!

But I heard: "Police, police, police." That's when I got out and started responding. They traced me.

The first thing they said was: "Identify yourself," which I did.

REASSURANCE

They asked me how many people were with me, and if I could positively identify all of them. They then took me around, while giving me cover.

They had guns cocked in all directions as I went out calling my colleagues.

They then moved us all to a central place and told us to stay together and away from the windows, and that they would be back once they had secured the building.

We stayed in that space for another four hours, but the security teams kept in contact, telling us to be patient not to panic when we heard explosions and gunfire as that would be police officers "securing" the building.

A different team came for us at about 3.45am. That is when the gravity of the situation hit me. The officers briefed us.

STAY LOW

They told us that if we were passing by the windows, we must move fast, then slowly in closed spaces and fast once we got outside.

They walked us through the second floor to the ground floor emergency exit, into the back parking which had cars parked tightly together.

They were covering us with guns cocked in all directions and we were walking and running, bent low. They kept telling us to stay low.

Even when we were still inside awaiting rescue, the rallying call was stay low. We got out and I was bare foot.

I didn't realise I was running on hard surface with splintered glass as I felt no pain at all!

COUNSELLING

We were taken to the Red Cross rescue centre where we registered and were also taken for counselling before being released to go home.

We had colleagues and families on the other side of the fly-over waiting. I finally got home towards morning.

Traumatised but unbowed! It is important to have a strong social network. I had friends and families who stayed up all night just to keep praying.

Some kept updating me on the situation as they were watching it on TV and giving us running commentaries on the situation as it was happening.

Some just kept texting so as to keep us active and alert. Some just sent the word "Nancy" and all this helped to restore sanity and calmness that prevailed. Here we are #Unbowed.”