Thursday, December 21, 2017

14 Oct: A day that has changed everything

When a suicide bomber detonated huge truck at Mogadishu’s busiest junction (Zoobe) on 14th October afternoon, no one expected that more than 500 bodies would have laid on the ground lifeless nor we would have imagined that this would be Somalia’s deadliest single attack or the world’s worst terror attack in modern history. It has been two and half months since that day and there has not been a single day that has passed where I haven’t thought about writing something regarding the tragedy, perhaps I didn’t have the exact words to describe what happened. Every time I open my laptop and try to type the words something clogs and takes me back to the day of the event and I had to stop it there. However,  Sixty eight days later I decided to write a piece to describe the accounts of what happened and pay tribute to the fallen victims and to everyone else who may have been directly or indirectly affected by that tragedy.  

The Day's Beauty was Shuttered
It was a beautiful day which started as usual with bright and serenity, people were busy on their daily lives, students went to their schools and universities, businesses centers were opened, cars were passing the street and huge flocks of pedestrians were walking on the sidewalk of Zobe junction. On the same day of the event, I have passed along that junction three times, in fact I passed there just 35 minutes before the blast.
On that day, around 2:30pm I along with two of my colleagues had a lunch at Safari Hotel, before we left the hotel, I was stopped by another friend, a former classmate who had small Retail shop on the front side of the hotel. He asked me if I could stay with him for 10 minutes until his sister comes who would replaces him shortly. I excused myself and told him I had another meeting, however, I stayed with him for 3 minutes and left him soon after I received a call from my other friends who were waiting me.
We left Zoobe after we finished our business and again came back to the same place where the explosion would happen, there was bad traffic jam but we managed to escape the jam. After we drove about one kilometer away from the spot, we were talking about the city’s gridlock traffic jam, a friend raised a serious issue when he said “the city has been quite and calm now days, there must be something coming up!” We prayed God that he continues it like that way. It is true as it has been witnessed before, if nothing happens in Mogadishu for two or three consecutive months, it is likely something could happen at any time. I dropped off my friends at their house went back to my house. But Before reaching my house I heard huge bomb blast BOOM! I was shocked and terrified by the power of that blast.
“That was around Zoobe junction” said the driver. “Let’s wait here until we find out the exact location” I told him. It was true, it was Zoobe junction and the moment I realized it was that area I started calculating the causality because I knew the traffic jam, I knew the fact that the area was so overcrowded with civilians.
A scale like no other
I have lived most of my life with conflict, chaos and witnessed the worst humanitarian crisis in war-torn country but I have to admit, I have never seen anything to the scale of what happened on 14th October in Mogadishu. More than 500 people have died in that single attack, many more were seriously injured, but what is more horrendous was that an estimated number of 65 people went missing; their bodies never found until today, they were all presumed dead.
I have never been terrified to that level in any other day of my life, even the day I lost my father. Although none of those who have died in that day was not so close to me yet I felt that all of them were somehow connected to me. One person I cannot forget however is the sister of my best friend Faiza whom I met her thirty minutes before the blast. She went missing, three weeks later the family gave up searching her body and declared she was dead. It’s still hard for her brother Kamal to give up.
Some of the bodies could not be recognized because they were burned by the heat generated by the blast which was detonated next to fuel tanker. According to the analysis, the truck which was used for that explosion packed with 400kg of mixed explosives including military-grade explosives. It was so devastating that the blast killed people who were hundreds of meters away from the area.
Al-Shabaab who are known for carrying out these types of attacks avoided to claim this one, perhaps they were shocked by their own actions or perhaps it is possible that they are worried about how this massacre will cost them the little support they have in areas that fall under their control.
A desperate call for blood donation
Following the incident people rushed to hospitals to find out about their loved ones, others went to the explosion site searching their missing loved ones and others just grieved on the streets crying and praying for their loved ones whom they have called their phones several times but never answered. You might even think that there was an earthquake disaster that day in Mogadishu. The president immediately declared three days of national mourning, he even donated blood and called for others to do the same. Thousands of people including other government officials followed the same suit and donated blood for the victims. 
A group of young volunteers quickly set up national emergency response center called Gurmad Qaran  after the government gave them space to operate and 24/7 emergency hotline was also installed to trace and identify the missing ones. Countries have started sending medical supplies and other humanitarian materials. Those who were seriously injured have been airlifted to Turkey, Sudan, UAE and Kenya. It is worth mentioning that our sister country Djibouti sent 40 doctors and health professionals to Mogadishu to treat those who were in need of medical attention inside the country.
World reacted shockingly
There has been messages of solidarity, prayers, condolences and donations from other parts of the country and form the world. For instance, two global cities (Paris and Toronto) have shown solidarity with Mogadishu victims in different ways, the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris announced on twitter that it will turn its lights off on midnight of the same day of the attack to pay tribute to the victims of the attack. The mayor of Toronto also announced that Toronto sign was to be lit to the color of Somalia flag as a show of solidarity with victims of the terror attack. This incident was so atrocious that Mogadishu was on the front pages of the international print and online media outlets for almost a week.
As far as I remember, if there was anything that united Somali people both at home and abroad, it was the event of 14th October. It was a moment of showing solidarity, brotherhood and unity for one purpose; to donate blood, money and give moral  and financial support to the victims. In Puntland state, people have raised more than 500 thousands us dollars, even people in the self-declared state of Somaliland who have no political or diplomatic relations with the rest of Somalia organized fundraising platforms and collected significant amount of money to support the victims. 14th October will forever remain in the heart of every Somali citizen for decades to come.
I conclude my piece with few words of prayers
“May the Almighty Allah have their souls on mercy, May he shower them with his endless blessings. May he take them into Paradise and protect them from the punishment of the grave and from the punishment of Hell-fire. May he give patience and strong faith to the ones they left behind in this world.”
O Allaah, they are under your care and protection so protect them from the trial of the grave and torment of the fire. Indeed you are faithful and truthful. Forgive and have mercy upon them, surely you are the most forgiving, the most-Merciful”

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