‘Tuesday was one of those busy days. I was in the office by 7am but left soon after for an early morning event and then a meeting.
It was not until about 1pm that I got back to our 14 Riverside offices and settled down to get some work done. Besides a couple of tasks to dispense with, I also needed to return my university graduation gown, since it was well past deadline and penalties were accumulating.
All this suddenly became less urgent. A huge blast rocked the building. What was now important was staying alive, as the fight-or-flight instinct kicked in. I grabbed my phones and Kindle and shot up. We dashed out of the second-floor offices to take the stairs, as always advised in drills.
Exiting the building, still unsure what had caused the explosion, our march to safety was rudely interrupted by gunshots from the direction of the gate. We stopped in our tracks. With my colleague, Eddy, who was right in front of me, we got back into the building. We were joined by another colleague, Evelyne, and together ran into a washroom on the ground floor and bolted the door.
The next hour or so was harrowing. Gunshots rent the air, sometimes sounding so close to the door of the washroom. The attackers seemed to be moving as they shot. At some point, our ears followed the shots upstairs. With every approaching gunshot, my heart sank. We knelt down, held hands and murmured a prayer. I asked God to protect us from what seemed to be an imminent and painful death. I thought about my children and my wife. My mind wandered to my parents and siblings. Death had arrived, or so it seemed.
Those are the times when breathing appears too loud, the stomach cannot stop rumbling raucously and any slight movement is noisy. Everything seems to have conspired to draw the attention of the attackers. Or it was just my brain playing tricks on me.
I wondered if it would have been safer to follow the rest who had run out of the building. But it was too late now.
I texted my wife, “Our building has been attacked. But I am safe”. All this time, my phone rang incessantly. My default response was, “Can’t talk. Safely hiding and praying”.
Thank God for WhatsApp. It was from it that the magnitude of what was happening around us became clearer. It was also through it that we sent SOS and maintained contact with the rest of mankind. It was also from there that we followed the developments. Initially, reports indicated that it was but a bank robbery. However, the force was obviously too much for a robbery. Then messages from the other individuals hiding within the complex started appearing. It is then that we learnt that this was another terror attack.
Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, the gunshots quieted. We heard voices outside and a vehicle moving. Help finally came, thanks to the gallant officers. After a loud knock and demands to open the door, we did. Never before have I been surrounded by so many gun-toting officers. We were ordered to put our hands up, frisked and, in single file, escorted out of the building. We were led to a room where the parking system is manned, and for a while, savoured freedom. It was pleasant to hear excited phone conversations with kith and kin, and amused by demands by one of us for a phone that he had left in the car.
Finally, we were led out of the compound, onto a queue for registration and onto a holding area.’
Butunyi is a PR practitioner
Credits: The Star