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Terrorist attack in Somalia- Feb 2nd- 1994
I suffered a terrorist attack in Somalia (Baidoa), February 2nd 1994
DESCRIPTION OF THE BOMBING
I am a Nutritionist and Dietitian with a Master of Science in Public Health and a Diploma in Management of Natural Disasters, Refugees, and Displaced Persons.
In July 1993 when in Chicago, I had an offer from WORLD VISION INTERNATIONAL that does relief around the world) to join them as Health Officer in Somalia (East-Africa) for 1 year.
Although the security conditions at the duty station in Somalia (Baidoa) were very bad at that moment (gunshots at night, looting of goods, attacks on vehicles, etc.) we continued our daily activities.
We planned weekly our activities and with a military escort from UNOSOM (The United Nations forces in Somalia) and we traveled to isolated towns and villages 3 to 8 hours per day. We implemented immunizations of children under 5 years old, care of high-risk pregnant women, health and nutrition education to community health workers, education of birth attendants and distribution of essential medicines.
The international staff of our agency at Baidoa’s office were: a North American man in charge of food, commodities and agricultural tools distribution, an Englishman which was the engineer and handy-man, an administrative officer (a North American woman) and the health team: a North American Nurse Practitioner and me. There was also a part-time Country Director (Indian), who served half the month in Baidoa (Somalia) and the other half in Nairobi (Kenya).
On December 24, 1993, all the international agencies working in Baidoa were invited to a Christmas party at the GOAL (an Irish agency working in Baidoa). At 10:00 PM, a bomb exploded in the compound, destroying several walls and damaging some vehicles. Fortunately, Irish Officers from the United Nations were with us, they took preventive and offensive measures to protect us; meanwhile we waited 2 hours for United Nations tanks to escort us to our houses. Later, the same night another bomb exploded at Catholic Relief Services compound (in Baidoa).
On December 26, members of our agency, found in the local market in Baidoa, a letter (one side hand-written and the other side typed) in which the authors were warning all the international agencies in Baidoa, not to celebrate any Christian or religious holidays; if we did, they would retaliate against us.
That day I expressed during lunch to our staff and the Administrator of the Office (the Country Director was not present), that I was worried about the location of my bedroom, because it was on the outside wall of the compound near a gangway-like corridor; it had communication to the street and did not have any kind of security.
The administrator said that she would look at that problem. Two days later, the Administrator told me that there was not a problem, and that they had talked to the property owner and that he put some shrubs in the passage to deter anyone from entering the corridor behind my room. Again, I expressed discomfort of the situation that day and 3 or 4 days later. No further security measures were taken despite my verbal protests of the situation.
In the last days of December 1993 and the first days of January 1994, there were many public demonstrations in the streets from the general population against United Nations troops and foreign agencies working there.
The explosion occurred February 2nd, 1994, 5:45 am. I got up as usual and went to take a shower, and then returned to my room that was the last thing that I remember.
Later, (I don’t know at what time) I regained consciousness on the patio of the compound where Nancy Jex (the nurse, my co-worker) was administering me life saving first aid. She told me that a bomb had exploded and that I was going to the UNISOM hospital. I was transported by truck to the United Nations hospital in Baidoa (a tent hospital) where military Indian doctors, treated my shock, they gave blood transfusions, administered painkillers, cleaned the wounds, and did X- rays (all the X- rays were not usable because the machine was very old and in poor repair). The next day, I was airlifted to Nairobi (Kenya) and was treated at Nairobi’s Hospital.
A general description of the wounds I suffered:
- Loss of consciousness
- Large blood loss
- Chin broken in three different places
- Inferior gum cut in two places
- Big wound in the left side of the face and neck under the ear, resulting in lost tissue and muscle on my face and neck
- Pneumo-thorax (air in the thoracic cavity) a piece of wood from the door or window frame entered my left lung.
- Big wound with loss and damage of muscular mass and other tissues in the left arm, that required several skin grafts to close and caused much disfiguration
- Fractures of the left wrist
- Deep and extensive puncture wound to the left thigh.
- All my ribs had multiple fractures.
- Extensive burns and injuries to my back
At the Nairobi hospital I was in intensive care for 2 weeks after those three plastic surgeries were performed to begin repairing my face and arm.
February 22, 1994, I was air-transported from Nairobi to Chicago (under the medical care of Nancy Jex).
February 23, 1994 I was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Illinois.
February 24, 1994 Dr. Thomas Mustoe a reputable plastic surgeon performed plastic surgery on my face left thigh, left arm, and jaw.
I was discharged from the hospital March 3, 1994.
After hospitalization, I received physical therapy for the left arm and leg to help recover flexibility and strength. However, I have not fully recovered.
Since that time I have been under the care of several physicians from Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Dr. David Hanson (Department of Otolaryngology) and Dr. Timothy Hain (Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of Vestibular Testing Laboratory) were treating the lost hearing capacity in the left ear. This damage has caused continued problems with dizziness, lost of balance, vertigo, and disorientation and continuous ringing.
There was not an official report of the incident from the UNISOM investigations in the field, but through unofficial sources was said that 15 to 30 kilograms of dynamite or a plastic explosive were put in the wall of my bedroom on the side that faced the gangway, that was accessible from the street.
Although it was a terrible experience, that changed my life totally, I continue making my best effort day a day. I work, live, love and help another human beings (this is what make us humans).
I lost at least 90% capacity in my left ear. I almost lost my left leg and left arm, terrible scars in my back, face (which better after plastic surgery) and a metal plate in jaw. I suffer from vertigo and disorientation because the impact of the explosive wave affected some inner regions of my brain that control balance and orientation.
In addition, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of living that experience. I have been in psychiatric and psychological counseling from 1994 to keep a grip of reality and consider myself safe and sound.
Due the fact that I am a Meditation, Relaxation, Visualization and Mindfulness practitioner, I used those for recovery and wellness. Those tools helped me to live day a day. I went to University of St Francis and completed a Master of Science in Training and Development and I have been gainfully employed. I must work to pay my bills and take care of my family, despite all my mental and physical limitations. I moved 12 years ago from Chicago to the West Palm Beach area in Florida, I got married and we have a wonderful 12-year-old boy.
Different from other international staff that has been wounded in terrorist attacks overseas, like military personnel, I don’t have any disability income. No lawyer was interested to take my case and finally my employer gave me 40,000 dollars and closed the case. That money was invested and lost during the last financial crisis 2007- 2008. I found a sad truth; my employers really didn’t care about what happened to me afterwards. NO body from World Vision International has been in contact with me, did not offer any extra help. Unfortunately they don’t care about how my career was changed, didn’t offer any job opportunity tailored to my mental and physical handicap. I went to Somalia, I was almost killed doing my job, I never heard from them anymore.
So I go to my psychiatrist, practice meditation and recovery, take care of my family and deal day a day with reminders of that 1994 dreadful experience. I do the best I can. That is my life story.