1998 bombing site now an idyllic park

January 17, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 17 – August 7th 1998 is a day that will remain sharply etched like an iron brand in the minds of all Kenyans.

On that fateful day, many people in Nairobi woke up to the hustle and bustle that characterises the busy Metropolitan city, unaware that an unprecedented wind of change would blow their way like an apocalypse on the Day of Judgment.

At about 10am local time, the atrocious head of terrorism reared its ugly head ripping apart the peaceful tranquillity of the Central Business District (CBD) with an earth shattering and mind numbing bomb explosion that could be heard from as far as Tigoni and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Across the city, the blast sent a shock wave that caused many buildings to tremble.

"I had quite a number of friends who were working with the Teachers Service Commission and they perished," said Gerald Kinyua, a retired teacher who frequents the site of the incident at the former American Embassy – now a Memorial Park.

The park is located at the junction of Haile Selassie Avenue and Moi Avenue, near the Kenya Railways Headquarters and opposite the Cooperative Bank House.

While speaking to Capital News, the pain in Mr Kinyua\’s eyes is quite evident as he relived the day that saw him lose a number of friends and former students.

"One of the victims was a previous student of mine and when I come to the park, it reminds me with a lot of pain about the boy who perished," he recounted. "I have also a friend of mine who is alive, but at times she is not sound in mind due to the incident."

Mr Kinyua visits the August 7th Memorial Park every so often to pray for those who lost their lives on that day and to reflect on his lot in life.

"Any time I come to Nairobi and I am very tired, I need a place to relax my mind and I enter the park. It is very quiet and the silence gives you an impression that this place is sacred since a lot of lives and souls got lost in this place," he said.

According to the General Manager of the August 7th Trust Joan Njagi, the park has a section where remains of shattered glass and debris have been built into a sculpture to depict the way the body, mind and spirit of many were changed on that day.

It has also has been developed to be a garden of exotic varieties of flowers and trees and is maintained by the City Council of Nairobi.

She explained that a list of the names of the departed victims is listed on one end of the concrete wall surrounding this terrific Park and the site is open to anyone from any corner of the world, who would like to pay tribute to the departed souls – any day of week.

"We have miniature representations of the buildings that were affected, that is, a model of both the Ufundi Cooperative and the former American embassy. We have things that were gotten from the incident and even stories about the people that were affected," she stated.

"We also have a lot of pictures on the intensity of the attack, how it affected the buildings, the destruction that it caused and how people\\\\\\\’s lives were affected after that."

It further has a museum which among other things contains memorial flags of those who lost their lives and the stories of the survivors.

She explained that visitors have to pay a paltry entrance fee, which goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the park.

"A fee of Sh20 is charged for the maintenance of the Park. You will find this park amazing; you can also use this park as platform to view different species of the birds," she said.

Conference facilities where people can transact their business and arts in the park theatre, which goes a long way in promoting local talent, are also housed there.

Indeed, the peace and tranquillity of the park belies the violence that occurred on that fateful day.

At its centre is a fountain constructed in the form of the ancient Chinese Ying Yang symbol, which represents harmony.

For Diana Akinyi, the park serves as a haven of rest where one can escape the stresses and strains of today\\\\\\\’s world.

"It is a nice place where you can relax when you are stressed up because the environment is cool and there is no one to disturb you.

You can even mingle with other people," she explained. "I normally frequent this park when I want to have a soul searching with myself."

She advised both foreigners and locals to frequent the park since it will serve as a reminder of the effects violence can have on the lives of many.

"I think people should come over and spend more time here in memory of people who lost their lives since if we keep away will be erasing the memories of those who lost their lives in the incident," she said.

"It serves as a reminder that whatever we do, in this lifetime, we need do it to the best of our abilities and with the interests of other people to heart since this will foster unity and peaceful coexistence."

Indeed, today (January 14) marks exactly 12 years, five months and six days since Kenya experienced the brutal terrorist attacks that killed 218 people and injured 5,000 others.

Many people have termed it as an atrocious act that left many with physical and psychological wounds.

As a quote pasted in the memorial wall indicates, we should forever reject the notions of terrorism and violence. It reads: "May the innocent victims of this tragic event rest in the knowledge that it has strengthened our resolve to work for a world in which man is able to live alongside his brother in peace."



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