THISDAY reporter Grace Chimezie, recounts her ordeal when the bombs came exploding last Thursday at the premises of the organization.
It is usually not my routine to be at the office early, except when I am not at the field monitoring news events. But that day, I was less busy, and being a student on internship, I decided to head for the office and find what I could do.
I had a little chat with my boss about the previous day’s event, and in our last editorial meeting, the privilege of reviewing the papers all through the week preparatory for the next meeting fell on me. I felt on top of the world, a poor intern. I browsed through a copy of our publication to see if my story was published. After we got through with the conversation, I went on to check my mail and go through the papers, I was still in my multitask assignments when I had a loud explosion; I found myself on the floor, groaning in pain, apparently dazed. My thought pattern was disorganised. I was dazed and out of this world…
In the struggle to regain consciousness and come to terms with the unfolding scenario, I remembered my laptop, the soul of my activity. It may have sounded mundane, but what came to my mind was how could my laptop blow up, but immediately I realised that a part of the building was coming down on me, I shifted as the cardboard papers and the zinc from the roof, flying in the air like the missile it had become, landed on my laptop with a deafening bang.
I lost consciousness, still puzzled as to what might have caused the explosion. The dust and glasses that had shattered all over the place compelled me to move out of the building as fast as my legs could carry me.
I could barely look back. Could this be true? I refused to believe a terrorist assault was unfolding, it can’t be true! , I thought. I was wrong. I made a drastic move out of the door.
When I got out I had some terrified people saying we have just been bombed; a huge, uncontrolled, angry crowd had formed a ring outside the premises shouting: “we no gree ooh, we no go gree, tell the government we no go gree…”, I was so scared and terrified, as my back hurt me, showing signs of a severe injury.
I was hit by the ceiling and the shattered glasses, then I realised I had come out of the building without any means of contact, so I went back to get my phone and my shattered laptop and as I came out from the building, I watched in dismay how the roof and the glasses finally came down, blocking every entrance of escape. I also realised that the nearby buildings had been affected, shattering all the glass windows.
Having retrieved my phone and laptop, I noticed I was bleeding from an open cut on my leg, I ran out looking for help, as a huge crowd had gathered in front of the gate, I was given a cloth soaked in kerosene to tie my cut, to prevent it from bleeding, I did not care where the cloth came from, but just did what I was asked to do.
Outside the office, there were so many people, some with genuine intentions of helping while some touts saw an opportunity to scramble for fortune. The VIO’s van was already outside picking up victims of the blast. I was asked to join the badly injured ones whose situation made mine a child’s play, with parts of their body at best described as mangled flesh coated with red custard of their blood. It dawned on me I should be praising God and singing Alleluyah.
My cries were quickly subdued; I quickly wiped off my tears and joined the vehicle. The angry mob outside made an attempt to prevent us from moving but it was taken care of. We were then conveyed in a van to the National Hospital. At the hospital, attention shifted to the more severe cases, and I was verbally drilled for my particulars, my name, contacts and other relevant data that could be used to identify me.
I was deeply touched by the sight of a child between the age of 10-12 years, who was sorely affected by the blast. Not satisfied with the attention coming to me I moved to a private hospital, Limi Hospital, Central Area, where I found out I was injured on my back.
I was treated and admitted for a day for monitoring. I had glass cuts mostly on my legs and during the process of observation a tiny broken bottle was identified behind my leg.
I am a student on attachment desirous to learn. What happened last Thursday is a great experience, that shows that the hazard that comes with the job drives you to do more.
I am glad I was able to survive this ordeal, because we lost our security guard in the process of preventing the suicide bombers from gaining entrance into the building. The building is totally written off but not the zeal to report the truth. Even though this happened it does not prevent me from doing my job as it ought to be done.
My parents, friends and well wishers expressed deep worry and concern with unending calls inundating my phone. Everybody wanted to know how I was feeling and what next should be done to ensure my safety.
This is one of those phases we would overcome to remain on the path we have chosen to belong and to have been baptised so early in the day indicates what this road to Damascus will be like: glorious and fulfilling. I am glad I belong to a profession that tells the truth. And as Othman Dan Fodio said “conscience is an open wound, which can only be healed by truth”. Yes, I am so happy to be alive and I am able to live to tell my story, whilst commiserating with those who lost their loved ones in the blasts.
I give God all the glory for transforming me from a victim to a survivor. It would take me a long time to overcome the shock of this experience, the unexpected turn of events when noon became dark and the clattering sounds of metal in the air sank my heart. They keep flashing back in my mind, the black Thursday.