NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 24 – When I first heard the gunshots I instinctively ran for the supermarket exit but when I saw people were falling all around me I ran back to the meat counter I had been manning.
There were already people crouched behind the counter but I squeezed in and got enough room to lie down, face first.
It was what you typically did when caught in the cross fire between police and armed robbers – which is what I thought was happening given the screams of ‘mwizi’ (thief) I had heard before hitting the deck.
Before I hit the ground I saw some shoppers still walking around, pushing their shopping carts slowly, trying to figure out what was going on. They, like me, probably thought the gunfire would be short-lived and matters quickly cleared up.
I didn’t immediately seek out a hard-to-reach place either or an alternative exit because, like I said, I didn’t think we were the targets but I was quickly dispossessed of that fantasy when I heard the shooters speak.
It was hard to make out what they were saying at first because they spoke in a mix of English, Kiswahili and what I think was Arabic but from what I could make out I knew we were in trouble.
“You have invaded our country,” I believe one of them said, “you have raped our women and killed our elderly and it is time we got some retribution.”
Once they made their mission known they just started shooting and I could hear screams, cries for help, gasps of shock as, I later found out, they shot those who lay on the ground between the aisles.
I quickly burrowed my upper body beneath the meat counter as there was no room for anything else but I still hoped that someone would stop ‘them’ whoever ‘they’ were before they got to us.
Hope blossomed when I heard them come upon a woman who identified herself as a French national and her children. I knew she had children because they were crying and one of the terrorists told them to, “shut-up.”
I couldn’t make a sound because I could hear them shoot anyone who let out a moan
I didn’t hear their response but I recall their mother being told, “You’re lucky we don’t kill children,” before being ordered to take her children and run.
She wasn’t however, the only one to identify herself as a French national but having no children, this woman tried bargaining for her life.
“I have money,” I think she said, “take anything you want.”
But as they’d said, they weren’t after money so they shot her and I knew in that moment that if they had no mercy for an unarmed woman who’d laid herself bare, they’d have no mercy for me — a man.
And I was right. I could feel the counter shudder as they shot at the display case. I could hear the squish sound the meat made when they stood on it but curiously I didn’t feel it when the bullets hit me.