“I was just getting up when the attack started. I ran outside with my roommates, but I quickly returned when I looked around and realized people were falling all around me– they were being shot! A group of us, I don’t remember how many, fled back into the dormitory. Everyone looked for a place to hide. Many went under the beds. For some reason, I did not think of that. Instead, I don’t know how, I found something to step on and climbed into the ceiling opening. I quickly pulled it back, but it did not close fully.”
The 21-year-old Esther’s face changes as agonizing memories flood back. We met the brave young woman in a Nairobi hospital while visiting some of the students injured in the Garissa University attack of April 2nd.
“I was terrified. I dared not make the smallest sound and did not move a muscle for over 12 hours. It is not naturally possible to be that still… I know that God hid me in that ceiling… I was even afraid to breathe as I watched and heard how my friends got killed… The sights and sounds haunt my thoughts and memories…”
By Esther’s bedside was her mother, Ellyjoy, who went through sheer agony the day of the attack.
“We heard the news and immediately tried calling Esther, but she did not answer her phone. We tried over and over as the day progressed, but we got no response. Not knowing where my child was or even if she was alive was torture beyond words! My heart felt like it was being shredded. I cannot describe what I felt when we heard that she had been rescued and was being evacuated to Nairobi… I went there immediately. When I saw the bus, I simply burst into tears!”
It was only when the bus arrived in Nairobi that the full realization of what she had gone through struck Esther. “When we reached Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, where we were brought to meet our families, I collapsed. I was told that I went into convulsions and had to be brought to hospital. The doctor later explained that I was in traumatic shock. I am doing better now, but my heart is still beating very, very fast.”
For Esther, even thinking about what happened on that fateful day is too much. But she reminds herself that she is safe now and courageously holds on to the hope that this darkness will pass. “I know I will be okay. Actually, last night I was able to sleep without medication.”
When Open Doors visited a few days later, we learned that Esther was being discharged. Physically, she was doing much better. The convulsions had stopped, and the dizziness had subsided, too. A psychologist had spoken to her alone, and there had also been a group session.
But ahead of Esther lay another mountain to climb in this terrible ordeal; the funeral of her roommate and her best friend who died in the attack. “She was more like a sister to me than a friend. I simply have to attend and say goodbye.”
When we hugged and said goodbye, Ellyjoy thanked us for our support to her and her daughter. “I am comforted and encouraged by your love. I have seen the love of Christ here… thank you for your visit and God bless you!”
OD will stay in close contact with Esther.
Please pray for Esther and the many other survivors who have a long road of recovery ahead. Pray that they would receive adequate emotional care, and that in these difficult days, they would come to know our Lord as the great Healer of wounds, not only physical wounds, but also emotional ones. Pray for His comfort to all those who have lost loved ones in the attack. May they also know the presence and ministry of the Great Comforter, the One who promises to be near the brokenhearted.