Pupils recall brush with death at the besieged shopping mall

 

Pupils of Nyeri Good Shepherd school lift candles during prayers and tributes for the Westgate victims outside Raybells restaurant in Nyeri town on September 27, 2013. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI
Pupils of Nyeri Good Shepherd school lift candles during prayers and tributes for the Westgate victims outside Raybells restaurant in Nyeri town on September 27, 2013. Photo/JOSEPH KANYI

Sunday Nation

Events of Saturday September 21 will remain etched in the minds of five pupils at Hospital Hill primary school in Nairobi.

According to their headteacher Jeremiah Mutua, some of the children are struggling to come to terms with what they saw and heard.

“It is very hard to get them to concentrate in class, which is understandable. The experience is hard enough for the adults who were in that mall,” he said.

Mr Mutua said the pupils need counselling to recover, concentrate in class and lead normal lives.

“Television and newspapers are full of stories and experiences of adults involved in the attack. Let us not forget the children who are even more vulnerable,” he said.

Sunday Nation visited the school this week and listened to their stories.

Ibrahim Sharif, 9, went to the mall a happy boy because his dad was to buy him a present for passing his science exam. They bought the present and left the mall. He was glowing with joy. “While at the gate we heard gunshots, and I saw someone getting shot. Once we got out of the gate we ran for our lives. I will never forget what I saw.”

Juliet Sandra, 9, was shopping with an uncle. She was on the first floor when she heard six gunshots. Gunmen confronted them and told everybody to put up their hands, then they started shooting in every direction and she saw people falling after being shot. “We joined a mob running downstairs. People were dropping all over. I don’t know how we survived; now I believe in miracles.”

Faith Muiruri, 10, was taking part in a cooking competition on the top floor of the mall when gunmen entered and started shooting. She lay down and crawled into a cupboard where she hid. “I saw my friend and school mate shot. I don’t know how long I stayed under the cupboard, but a brave policeman rescued me and took me downstairs. It was like being in a horror movie.”

Jamleck Njiru, 10, was not at Westgate, but he says he is disturbed by the horrific images he saw on television and newspapers. He says he has been having bad dreams where he sees himself inside Westgate.
“I am traumatised, I cannot imagine what the children and adults who were there went through,” he says.

Ian Mbugua, 13, was with his father queuing for movie tickets on the first floor. A gunman shot in the air and told them to lie down. Another ordered Muslims to get up and leave.

Mbugua and his father got up and left. “As we were leaving, several gunshots rang out behind us. I did not want to imagine they were shooting those we had just left behind.