The following is from an email message forwarded to me via colleagues in Fiji. Pat, who is British but claims New Zealand residency, has since written several articles about his experience surrounding the bombing in Kenya where he was temporarily stationed as a media consultant. I felt this original letter captured the poignancy of the moment most vividly and asked his permission to share it with others here at this website. It is reproduced here with permission copyright 1998 Patrick Craddock.~ MJF, editor
Kenya Article, August 24th, 1998, CyberTimes, by Patrick Craddock
Date: Tue, 18 Aug 1998 12:01:17 +0300
From: Patrick Craddock
Greetings from a torn and sad Nairobi. Rescuers finally gave up last week on finding people alive in the rubble of the five-storey building that took most of the blast from the bomb last Friday. 247 people died. Many were just walking in the street and got hit by flying debris. We have had Israeli troops with sniffer dogs hunting for people. There was a tragic incident when two people were found alive and died as they were being brought out. Most of the people I have spoken with are terrified, as they think the bomb was aimed at them. It is not possible to convince many frightened people that the plan was to get the Americans.
Among the positive events that happened. There was a medical conference going on in Nairobi when the bomb went off. All the doctors rushed to the scene and the four local hospitals. British and American soldiers in the area also came to help. Tourists in Nairobi with medical training also went to the hospitals and offered their services. The International Red Cross had its Headquarters a few hundred metres down the road. Within minutes their teams were at the scene. It is the largest Red Cross in Africa as it looks after the whole continent. They were efficient, as only the Red Cross can be.
I was in the city about four blocks away from where the explosion took place. I was outside and getting ready to leave. Then came a bang followed by a blast and I felt a huge rush of hot air. Plumes of smoke soar upwards. Around me were thousands of children who were in the city for a music and dance festival. Screams and bodies rushed everywhere. I was near my car driver. She murmured bomb, bomb – and kept saying “Pail San, Nairobi – pail San – how sad for our city.
We got in the car and drove to my flat. I made her stay there. We watched black smoke reach our area, which was about three kilometres away. We drank tea and she stayed until the afternoon. TV then arrived at the scene. Among the first images was a man in a smart two piece suit, spread-eagled with his arms out, face shocked and blood streaming from his chest . Four men held each of his limbs and rushed him, face down to a small pickup truck that had been hastily turned into an ambulance.
Near the van stood a woman crying, her clothes red, her face contorted like Picasso’s painting of Guernica.. Two men and a boy led a blinded soldier with a bandage around his eyes to a waiting ambulance. He held on tightly to his gun. A bus nearby had been blown up. Bits of bodies hung from the windows. Nobody went near them. So many other people needed help. All day I felt awful. When I went to make a drink, I saw my hands shaking.
But I’d been lucky. I was away from the bomb.
In between the blast and me were three high buildings. Much of the area is cordoned off. Hundreds of windows in nearby shops and buildings have been blown out. TV pictures show smashed furniture dripping shattered windows and ripped walls. Every time I looked at the TV coverage that day I cried or felt a surge of vomit…
At night I woke again and again. In my head was the image of the Christ like spread-eagled man with blood dripping from his chest and arms. So much for the hard drama. But it is now receding. This is funeral weekend – over two hundred victims are being buried. The newspapers are full of photos of the dead. Many of them are young people.
The latest side of the tragedy is the way that insurance companies are working. They don’t want to pay out a single cent to victims, as the event was a terrorist action and people are not compensated for that event. Another group thinks the Americans should take responsibility and compensate the Kenya victims !!!!! Much of my life is boredom as I try to get things done. I am throwing my frustration at a new “Veena” (a young lady who’s job was to run a photocopy service in an office at USP ~ mjf). This time, it’s a man in charge of filling petrol in the car I sometimes use. He makes the driver come back twice a day for petrol. He won’t fill the tanks as he says he is saving petrol!!!! He also interrogates the driver on where she has been and won’t believe a word she says. With the entire hassle, it can take one hour to get a car half-filled with petrol. Do that twice a day and you have the Veena syndrome – Africa style_.. call it gender equality. And it is an international syndrome too. So, Veenaism is an export for retarding economic development.
The little research I have accomplished, has been hampered by riots in Zimbabwe, so I have not visited there yet. But, I have hopes. Tanzania is off limits for a while and I should not be in Kenya either. Maybe I might go to South Africa again. I am getting paranoid about East Africa and the violence I’ve seen. The other day the police flying squad shot a young man who was driving his parent’s car. He refused to stop. They pumped 27 bullets into the car. He climbed out, terrified and they killed him with another blast of gunfire. According to regulations they should have shot the tyres out and not the driver.
So, if I get back to Fiji in one piece, that will be my main achievement. Perhaps I should go to Las Vegas.. I could then gamble the last Fiji dollar and make a fortune. I need it. Doing something new is always interesting, even if it is threatening at the beginning. Despite my stupidity in coming to East Africa – I will be wiser at the end of this experience. Please forward this to friends. I am on email intermittently, as the phones lines keep breaking down. The bomb affected the post office.