Memories of a Dark Friday (UNV staff gives a personal account of Abuja UN House bomb blast in Nigeria on August 26, 2011)
7 a.m. - I cannot get up from bed, my legs feel heavy and seem made of lead. My body is out of control. Feminine intuition – a kind of an inner teacher (IN-TUITION) – an incredible resource and gift that we have been given to help us live our best life. All are aware of intuition, but not all use it. This is a good guard, which in case of danger, rings clear as a bell, but I did not listen to it that morning. I am making an effort to actually go to work because I have booked an important appointment and can’t miss it.
8:45 a.m.- Quarters of the United Nations (UN House) is located in the diplomatic zone in Abuja, not far away form the United States embassy. The UN building is a gift from the Nigerian government to the UN mission in Nigeria. The two- winged and four-floored building took form of a huge bird with wings spread in flight; it seems the architects tried to capture the spirit of impartiality and harmony of the inhabitants of the building and their mission to the surroundings and Nigerians.
9 a.m. - I park my car in the parking lot for UN staffers, and go to the checkpoint. The Nigerian and UN flags sway in the blue sky. I now take the stairs – it produces an energizing effect on me - to the second floor, to my office drowning in the sea of smiles from employees, who greet me a good morning. I ask the assistant- a sweet Nigerian young lady- to get a set of files ready for the appointment, and I sit at my computer, without which I cannot imagine a single working day. In our times, the workplace of each office employee is equipped with a computer with access to the internet. In a finger's snap, we all became dependent on this machine, which can not think for itself, but still is very cute and found its way to enslave us.
10 a.m. - Getting ready for my appointment; fingering the keys, I begin to type. A knock on the door, a colleague from the neigbouring office enters to discuss current issues. She bears a beautiful, and most importantly, a meaningful name, Hassana, which in Arabic means "good luck".
10:20 a.m. - A quake ... reality slips away in a blink of an eye, like water through the fingers. For a split second I dive into another world, one in which there is no clear line between life and death. A complete disorientation in space begins, but fortunately, no agitation, and no temporary stupor arises. I promptly come back to reality. Suspended ceilings, partitions and file cabinets began to fall on us. The smell of burnt insulation: the wiring cracked and sparked, dozens of cables hanging over our heads. We were now in darkness. Somewhere from above fell pieces of plaster and broken partitions. All is in a daze, difficult to breathe: cement dust gets into the eyes and eats into dry lips. We have to flee as soon as possible. I push the door and stop abruptly in the door way. A terrible picture lies in front of me: Hassana's office vanished. It fell into the shaft created by the massive blast on the first floor. Hassana stands rooted to the spot, trying to understand, what happened was on the verge of death, and she could fall forever along with her office. I grab her hand and rush to the exit. The corridor is very narrow, only half a metre. I hit my shoulders painfully on the corners and edges of partitions. We have to hurry, hurry to the emergency exit, where there were already a few members of our department. No! Anything but this! The door of the emergency exit got locked by the wave of the blast. Someone grabs a fire extinguisher, and breaks the glass; a gap occurs in which we slide along the line. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry up! The building might fall any second like a card house. Running to the stair way, we joined other fleeing colleagues descending from upper floors. A woman suddenly grabs my arm and drags me down the stairs. She is crying and thanking God for saving our lives "We are alive! We are alive!" she cries out loud like a spell gulping back her tears. Yet we do not know that we are so lucky, unlike our colleagues on the ground floor.
Finally, we run outside, in front of us lays a horrible scene- a bloody butchery. No, this can't be true, this is a mere fiction, nightmare, I want to wake up, but I can't: the courtyard is filled with broken glass; here and there are blood-soaked, lifeless bodies. Moans and groans from injured victims, heartbreaking cries from victims’ relatives who came to look for their loved ones. A woman is weeping hysterically after a loss. The wide yawning gashes in the building look like jaws, from which bits of framework hang like fangs of wild animals. In there rescue workers are trying to extract lifeless bodies from the rubble...
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