I looked at my mother trying to fix me a cup of white coffee. Her fingers trembled and she crashed on the seat and gave out a loud sigh before turning and giving me that fake smile she had always given me. I call it fake because no matter how much she tried to hide it, she could not hide the fact that her heart was breaking into pieces every single day. Everything had happened so quickly and it had hit her pretty bad. Seeing me lying in that hospital bed was probably not one of the things on her to do list. It was the last thing she thought she would ever do. Seeing me helpless and unable to do anything for myself was affecting her more than it was affecting me. But every day she tried hard to make everything okay for me. Her smile and comfort was all I had to get through the most horrific period of my life.
It had been exactly three months since I had been brought to the hospital soaking in my own blood and with a slight case of amnesia. Slowly by slowly, the events of that fateful day began coming back to me and in as much as I tried to put that past behind me, it was impossible.
April 13, 1300hrs
The crisp April air filled the local park with the sun burning down like there was no tomorrow. The smell of junk food made everyone hungry. Near the small lake at the centre of the park, a young couple sat precariously on the dry grass licking an ice-cream. Just directly opposite them, the ice-cream van stood. Children hovered around it with some screaming at the top of their voices to their parents, some of whom could not afford the luxury of buying them any. The van driver, an old champ, who looked like age had taken a toll on his frail body, scanned the crowd for a while. His limp was evident as he made his way to the stand to serve two eager children. Beads of sweat due to the unforgiving sun dripped down his temples, as he handed out the ice cream to the little girl.
Just close to the ice cream van, a woman probably in her thirties struggled to control her unruly toddlers who were fighting with the youngest. The other child, oblivious to the fiasco that was unfolding before his eyes, clicked away at her phone. The screams and cries from the children were beginning to attract passersby as most people turned to look at her. She was trying her best to explain to her children that she did not have the money to buy them ice cream. Embarrassed and confused she made a final attempt to calm down the children, before picking up the youngest who had tripped over and making a run for it towards the trees missing being run over by a jogging man.
The pack was always this full during the holidays with lower and middle class families who couldn’t afford the luxuries of visiting posh places or having lunches at expensive restaurants. Those who could spare a few coins sacrificed them for their children to enjoy the day, which to them came once a year. It was the only time some of these children had to brag to their richer counterparts about the luxuries their parents accorded them that holiday.
My husband Peter and our son waited in line to go on a boat ride. The que waving its way like the rivers of Mt. Kenya was already curving towards the ice cream van. It was their turn and they waved at me as the little boat made its way towards them and Ben climbed in eagerly and took a seat next to another toddler in a heavy brown jacket. It was always common for these folks to dress their kids in heavy attires since most of them could not afford to pay the expensive bills at the local hospitals if their kids were to get ill. It was indeed a good day to be alive. I lay down and closed my eyes to enjoy the serenity of the moment when suddenly there was a loud bang. I sat up alert, my ears ringing profusely.
Smoke filled the park threatening to choke me to death. Then suddenly gun shots shot through the air. Terrified screams and groans followed a few seconds later. The sky darkened and the smoke made me choke in pain. Children and adults ran helter smelter everywhere. Then there were more gunshots. People fell as if a plague was taking them all at a go. I tried to catch a glimpse of Ben and his father but the smoke was too thick.
It was as if we were being eliminated one after another – a curse of a nation. The vein on my temple throbbed and suddenly I felt a sharp pain on my left shoulder like something had just pierced through the flesh. I tried to squeeze it to lessen the pain but it was too much. My entire hand was now soaked with blood. I had been shot and I still didn’t understand what was going on.
I sat up trying to make face of our attackers. At a far distance I saw people – I can’t remember how many but they all lay on the ground, not moving. It was as if someone had called ‘statue’ on everyone. Some groaned in pain and then more gunshots rang through the air again. After a few minutes the groans died and everything turned grave silent.
I lay still just in case one of the attackers was nearby covering my nose with my scuff to muffle the smoke. There was a gunshot and it sounded too close to me. Then there was a sharp pain on my chest, blood gushed out like water from a tap and everything went blank.
I woke up several hours later in hospital with a lot of pain on my leg, arms and chest region. As I struggled to rise up, a young nurse came and held me back urging me to relax. I was yet to know what had happened.
“What happened and where am I?” I asked as soon as I caught a glimpse of the man in a white coat.
“Ma’am please try to remain calm and everything will be explained to you later on.”
I was not okay and I was definitely not in the moods of calming down. The pain on my legs was unbearable and I let out a sharp scream.
“Where am I and where is Peter and our son?” Seeing that I was not going to calm down, another doctor in his forties probably came and sat next to my bed. I could tell that whatever he was about to tell me wasn’t something I would enjoy listening to. He held my hand in an affectionate manner and looked into my eyes.
“Ma’am please try to get it together and I will explain to you what is happening. Can you do that for me?”
He was my only hope to finding out what had happened and why I was in a hospital bed and not at home in my usual seat with Ben dozing in my arms. I nodded meekly.
“Well, there is no easy way of saying this. You are here because you were a victim of a terrorist attack. You were brought here unconscious by Red Cross people.”
I stared blankly into space no longer listening to him and the only thing that kept ringing in my head over and over again was ‘terrorist attack.’
How? When? How could this be happening to me at this time?
“Sir, please what about my husband. What about my son?”
“Ma’am I don’t know anything about your husband or son but I can try to find out. But for now just remain calm and everything will be alright.”
I looked at him as if what he had said was an abomination. How was I to remain calm when I didn’t know what had happened to my family? I was going crazy just thinking about it as the words ‘terrorist attack’ kept running in my head like an endless horror movie.
One way or another I was going to find out what had happened and nobody, not even these self-acclaimed doctors would stop me. I lay there trying to think of the best time to make my move and it came that evening when they wheeled me into the ward and left. Both my legs were in bandages from knee to toes but that was not a problem. I had faced worse and the fate of my family hang on a lose string. I looked around to see if anyone shared in my troubles. Maybe one of them was there and could tell me where I could find Peter and Ben but none of them looked like victims of any terror attack. All in all I wasn’t going to lose anything by asking.
None of them had seen them. They had only heard of the attack on TV from the comfort of their hospital beds.
“Many people died miss, survivors were brought here and some were taken to the government hospital. Maybe your family is there,” said one kid in an arm sling at the far corner.
Maybe he was right but at the same time, fear clouded me when the events of that afternoon came rushing into my head. I had witnessed the most horrific scenes anyone could ever witness. People lay all around me dying and it pained me to think that Peter and Ben could have been among them. Right there, I knelt and prayed like I had never prayed before, wishing and begging God to allow them to be alright.
I stood up from the bed, on a mission of finding them in the other wards in the hospital. I had barely reached the door, when the breaking news bulleting came on the TV. The presenter was updating people on the terror attack that had happened earlier. More than a hundred people had lost their lives and scores others injured. The young boy was right; the causalities had been brought to that hospital as well as the government hospital.
A strange feeling took over me – that feeling you get when you know that something maybe true but you don’t want to accept it. I pressed on, limp after limp, ward after ward until I had scanned the entire hospital. I could not find Peter or Ben, not even in the shack like room that had been erected to house the many injured people who continued streaming in in ambulances. I sat there, crushed and heart broken and buried my face in my hands.
My legs were now bleeding profusely and the white bandages soaked with blood. I however could not feel the pain. It was one junior nurse who noticed me and beckoned to the doctors. They had been too busy attending and giving first aid to the injured to notice me standing there perplexed by all that was happening to me. I saw the doctor come towards me, ushering on another one- probably an intern to give him a hand then darkness. Two hours later I woke up in a ward, in excruciating pain, wishing that I could die right there. Somebody was sitting near my bed and as the medication cleared; I made out the face of my mother. She held me in her arms assuring me that everything was going to be alright but I knew that no matter what, nothing would ever be the same. In a matter of seconds I had lost my entire family, my husband the only source of light in my life and my son, the pillar of my strength.
In as much as the government declared war on terror that day, nothing would ever be the same again. In one day my life changed. I was now on the persons living with disabilities list something not even months of physiotherapy in the hospital could fix not to mention my broken heart. No matter how many people streamed in to pour their condolences and urge me to move forward, I could not. No matter how much money I received from the government in compensation, I still bore the scars of yesterday – scars that would never heal. I was a skeleton of who I used to be and I don’t think that that will ever change – at least not in a long time and at least not as long as Peter and Ben are not around to brighten the path ahead.
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Written By Lillyanne Gathoni
“Scars From Yesterday is purely a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.”