Marketer recounts cheating death in Dusit terror attack

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020 08:50 |

Today marks the first anniversary of the DusitD2 terror attack in Westlands that left 21 people dead and several others injured.

Also, today, four years ago, al Shabaab terrorist staged the deadliest attack on Kenya Defence Forces soldiers in El Adde, Somalia, leaving scores dead.

The terror group has lately resorted to ambushing and attacking the security forces and infrastructure using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Despite the effort by the multi-agency team, the terrorists have still managed to stage attacks especially in the Coast and North-eastern Kenya.

A year since the 14 Riverside Drive attack, Hiram Macharia, LG’s digital marketing manager says time has not erased the painful memories of the day when a loud explosion shattered the tranquility of an idyllic Tuesday afternoon on a normal day at work. 

Macharia was in his Hannover fourth floor office and did not think, even for a second that it was a terror attack.

How it happened

“I had taken lunch and was seated on my desk finishing my day’s work. At around 3:20pm we heard a loud bang outside.

I thought it was a transformer, which is  just outside the compound. I rushed to get the fire extinguisher and called everybody to rush downstairs and help put out the fire,” Macharia recalls.

His impulsive boy scout instincts, nearly led him to the jaws of death as he came face to face with two terrorists armed to the teeth and firing randomly as they charged towards Hannover building.

He dropped the fire extinguisher and headed up the stairs. “I have never seen my life flash before my very own eyes like that day,”  he said.

The terrorists made their way up the building and took some time on the third floor, beneath Macharia’s floor where scores of people had scampered for safety.

I had told everyone about what I saw and we hid. I went to finance section and hid behind the air conditioner, but part of my body was exposed so I went behind a desk where there was more cover.

About a dozen of my colleagues joined me and we stayed there silently, praying and waiting,” he recounts.

“After about 10 minutes they reached our floor and  smashed the door with bullets.

Luckily for us they did not venture much into the office,” he said. The terrorists fired random shots from the reception area into the office with calculated pauses to draw out people who were hiding.

 “They threw a grenade but it did not go off. We managed to stay quiet until they went upstairs.

Our managing director was hiding behind the pillar just behind the reception about five metres from where one of the terrorists was shooting but was not detected,” he said.

 The al Shabaab terrorists killed two people in the Hannover building, one of them being James Oduor, his colleague who had sought refuge upstairs.

Macharia and his other colleagues stayed crammed behind desks for hours until the terrorists left the building. 

“So many things were going through my mind at that time. I asked God why he would let me die in such a manner.

After they went up I ran to the window. I wanted to jump from fourth floor, but one lady talked me out of the idea.

I don’t know what would have happened,” Macharia says.  It took another five hours before the elite police unite, Recce Squad, rescued them from the building.

Forensic experts

Terrified, disheveled, confused and traumatised, evacuees left the ill fated 14 Riverside Drive complex not knowing which of their colleagues had made it out alive.

They took time to get out of the building as forensic experts combed the complex for further clues of the wider terror network.

After going back to work, it was not easy for Macharia and his colleagues to deal with the trauma. “Our company facilitated guidance and counseling for most members of the staff.

Although I have discovered that the gloom is coming back when people remember event of that day. More counseling is still needed,” he said.

The incident has left Macharia and his colleagues alert and wary of anything resembling the explosions and shootings of that day.

“People look like they moved on but we are very alert because if something drops in the office we are always ready to take off.

Personally it left a huge dent in me. There is a day I was driving past the Recces squad training school around 7pm.

I didn’t know they train at night so when I heard gunshots I left my car on the road and ran. It is not easy, you cannot forget just like that,” he said.

 While the terrifying effects of that attack left haunting memories for Macharia and his colleagues, it galvanised the nation in general and the 14 Riverside Drive community in particular.

“The whole attack made people in this complex become friends or a big family, even people who never talked to each other now do, from the banks, hotels and other offices,” he says.

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