What al-Qaida did to us

Nine people who have experienced terrorist attacks around the world, from Bali to Yemen, share their thoughts on the third anniversary of Sept. 11.


Salon Staff
September 10, 2004 7:41PM (UTC)

Saturday is the third anniversary of the epoch-shaping onslaught on New York and Washington, but a string of other al-Qaida attacks since 1998 has left little mark on our consciousness. What has terrorism done to the lives of ordinary people from Casablanca, Morocco, to Karachi, Pakistan? Our team of reporters asked nine people living in the shadow of the bombers.

George Mimba
I.T. manager at U.S. Embassy, Nairobi, Kenya, survivor of the Aug. 7, 1998, bombing there. Death toll: 213 people, all but a dozen of them Kenyans and other non-Americans. A synchronized attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 11 Tanzanians.

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My boss reminded me that I needed to go to the embassy cashier to pick up my allowance -- I was supposed to travel to Accra, in Ghana, for a conference for American Embassy computer managers in Africa.

I walked to the cashier's office. It was a Friday, and on Friday the Americans go on safari, so they were queuing up for money. Kenyans were queuing up for money as well. The lady who was banking the money spotted me. Her name was Lucy. She said to jump the queue. I got the money and went back to my office. All those people I left in the queue died, including the cashier.

I was sending my last e-mail when I heard the first explosion. It came in like a tremor: "Der-der-der-der-der." People were rushing to the window, but I thought I would send the e-mail before I went to look. Then I left my office, heading for the open space, and I was just by a pillar next to the computer room when the killer explosion came, and that's when my life changed.

[George was knocked unconscious but not badly injured. When he came around, he managed to crawl out of the building to safety.]

As I was crawling I could feel bodies, and I remember one of these was a very good friend, a colleague; we used to go out every Friday. I reached out for him and held him like this [cradling his arms]. But I was holding just a head. This was a head that was making noise. The rest of the body was not there.

I felt like it was not real. When you were in that building you were made to believe that it was the safest place. The Kenyans working there felt this was an embassy [in which] nothing could happen to you while you were inside. I was shaken, and I was so angry at what I had been made to believe. I was angry at myself. I didn't want to be alive because I thought that the people who died would be more peaceful than people like us.

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I thought that if I was alive, I must be fractured all over, and I did not want to remain in that pain. Also, I did not know what I had done wrong, what we had done wrong, that would make somebody do such a thing to us.

And I thought somebody would warn us. We went through bomb drills, fire drills, but when the real thing happened, everyone was taken by surprise, including the Marine guards who were on duty. We were so naive. We didn't know how to react. The colleagues who died, the majority of them were the ones who went to the window to see what was happening. I was also going towards the window.

The killer explosion came when everybody was at the window. What happened changed my life totally. When I leave home, I leave home knowing that I might not see tomorrow, as long as I work in the American Embassy.

We had something on Fridays called "TGIF" -- Thank God It's Friday. We all used to go out and have fun with other colleagues at the embassy. One of them was this guy whose head was separated from his body. This guy had had things planned and then he was no more.

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I'm more afraid as a person. I'm not afraid to die. But maybe when some wind closes the door, and I hear a small bang, I get scared.

I tend to go out of Nairobi more. I go to see my parents in the countryside, where it's quiet and peaceful and there's nobody who can harm you.

I still work at the embassy, as regional information systems manager. My family have asked me to quit the job, but somehow I've realized there's no safe place. And the thing I like about the embassy is that we keep changing our systems every year -- there's no company in Nairobi that can afford to do that -- so we keep getting new things.

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I feel more religious. When I survived, I asked myself why I survived, at each and every stage -- like leaving the cashier's office early. I started asking myself: "Why did I get out? What's special in me?" Since then, I have been taking Christianity very seriously.

I have two boys. One was born after the bomb, George Jr. Every step I make now is towards them, because I know that I can go at any time. I had to redo my will. I had to start saving heavily. Every property I have now is in their name, so if something happens they will be safe.

I wanted to find out exactly what would make somebody hate a person, like what had happened. Why would somebody just kill? Then I went to New York, where I testified during the trial of the people who bombed the embassy.

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[In May 2001, two men were convicted of murder in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Two others were found guilty of taking part in the conspiracy.]

In New York, we stayed at a hotel in the World Trade Center. Immediately after we came home, this building also was destroyed.

I wish I could talk to one of them [the bombers]. When I was in court, I really wanted to. How they behaved in court made me more angry. There were four of them, sitting [facing], just like you and me.

They looked at us, and they made faces; they grinned. It was like, whatever they did, they didn't feel anything whatsoever. You wonder if they have any feelings at all. I used to love action films, Sylvester Stallone, but what happened made me feel that whatever is happening out there is real. [They] remind me of what I saw -- the real blood, and people cut into pieces. Now I only watch movies based on true stories and comedies.

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-- Jeevan Vasagar

Zainab Abbas
Mother of Hashim Abbas, hotel employee killed in a car bomb at the Sheraton in Karachi, Pakistan, May 8, 2002. Death toll: 14 men, including two Pakistani naval officers and 11 French engineers, on a bus.

Hashim was my first-born. He was in the hotel's housekeeping department. His age was 27. He was the only one working to support the family at that time, because his father was unwell. Sikander, my second son, was going to school then because Hashim refused to let him work. He said: "Let me be the worker, and let him study. He is a good boy; let him finish his education." This was typical of Hashim; he was very generous and very responsible. After he was killed, Sikander had to leave school to take a job in the hotel, but he earns only half as much as Hashim earned and he doesn't get any tips. My husband also died shortly after Hashim. He had been an invalid for many years, but he became much weaker after Hashim died. I am sure the shock of losing Hashim broke both of our hearts.

The morning my son was killed, he arose early to go to the hotel. I said to him, "Don't go anywhere today, relax, you are on holiday," But, Hashim said, "No, I have some wages to collect, so I must go." The next thing, we saw on the news that there had been a bomb at the hotel, and immediately I rushed there to see what had happened to my son. Outside the hotel, there was a big crowd, but when I told the guards that I was the mother of Hashim, they let me pass through. It was a terrible scene. There was glass and wreckage all over the road, and the hotel looked as if it had been on fire. Then they took me to the hotel manager, and he said, "Don't worry, Hashim is fine; he is injured, but he is alive." But I sensed that something was wrong, and I lay down on the hotel floor and wailed out of terror for my son.

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The hotel people brought me home and told me to wait for news of Hashim, and again they said that he was fine. So then I sent my son-in-law to the hospital to find out what had happened to my son, and he returned two hours later with his body. We don't know whether Hashim died immediately, but I suppose that he did, thank God, because his legs had been blown away and his head and chest were badly damaged.

Who can say why someone would want to do such a terrible thing to innocent people. Only the criminals themselves can know. But I am not interested in why they wanted to kill, because Hashim was not the target of this bomb, the foreigners were the targets. I am not interested in politics of this kind. Nobody cares about these things; they are for politicians and criminals. Honest, hardworking people with families to feed do not think about these things. Only sometimes I have thoughts about the mothers of the Frenchmen who died with my son. They must have suffered as I suffer because mothers are the same all over the world, and only those who have suffered this grief know what it is to lose your son.

Since Hashim died I have looked on the world with sorrowful eyes. I used to be a very happy woman, but now I am terrified all the time. I have changed so much. I see the bad in everything. Only the bad. In the weeks after Hashim was killed, perhaps I was a little mad. I was terrified that Sikander would also be killed, and when he started working at the hotel I used to follow him there and sit outside the main door, waiting for him to finish his work. All day I used to sit outside in the sun, until one day the hotel manager came to me and said, "Auntie, enough, you cannot sit there all day." And then he installed a telephone in my house so that I could call Sikander at his work and know that he is safe.

Sikander tells me I should relax. In fact, many people say that Karachi is safer now than it was 10 years ago, when we had a lot of crimes and shooting. But I cannot speak of these things, because I never thought about danger until Hashim was killed. Now, I am always going to visit Hashim's grave, to pray for the soul of my eldest son, and that God will spare the life of my second son, Sikander. Four or five months ago, I had a terrible scare when some people fired on the American Consulate, which is close to the hotel. I phoned the hotel, wailing and crying, asking them what had happened to Sikander, until they brought him to the phone and told me to be calm.

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I feel such hatred towards the men who killed my son. What made them commit this evil act? It was an act of savagery. Imagine! They chose to kill men who were working hard to support their families, men like my son, men like these French people. These killers must all be executed. But, God willing, even if they are not made to suffer now, they will suffer on the Day of Judgment. Murderers do not go to heaven; they go to hell. British and French people may not be Muslim, but they are still human, and all mankind was made by Allah. Anyone who kills Allah's children will go to hell.

If you go to the hotel, you will see that they have put up a picture of Hashim in the reception, which was a good thing. My son was a good worker and he was well-respected. He never caused anyone any trouble. I am happy that the hotel has honored him. But the government has never done anything. They have given us no compensation for my son's death, and not even one government official has come here to offer his condolences. Of course they were very nervous about the foreigners being killed in Pakistan and also the naval officers because they were powerful men. But, no, they do not care at all about Hashim. He was not involved in their politics. But because of his death many people have suffered.

-- James Astill

Rick King
Owner of a general store and assistant fire chief, Shanksville, Pa. Here, one of the four U.S. airplanes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001 -- United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco -- crashed. Death toll: 44, including four hijackers.

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I was talking on the phone to my sister Jody about the Twin Towers and the Pentagon being hit, when she said: "Rick, I hear a plane Rick, it's loud and low and it sounds like a jet."

I ran outside and immediately I could hear the engines and the roaring, but I never saw it. And then it hit. I saw this huge fireball going up in the sky and then a mushroom cloud. It shook the whole town. I said, "Jody, I got to go."

My first thought was, "What the hell is going on? Planes are just falling out of the sky." But my second was the panic of wondering what was going to happen now. We don't train for commercial airline crashes in Shanksville. With a volunteer force you have to go with who is available, and since it happened on a weekday there were four people here -- the rest were at work. We just followed the smoke.

I remember getting out of the fire engine and thinking, where is it? There were no wings, no tail section, no nose. Nothing that looked like a plane. Just small balls of metal you could fit in your hand, pieces of wiring, insulation and mail. Some trees were smoldering and I started to hope that maybe it was a courier plane rather than a passenger jet. Then I started walking down this trail of singed wooded area and saw a piece of charred human flesh. Then I started to see more of that and more metal.

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By the time I came back the FBI and the Pennsylvania State Police were there and they took over. It was a crime scene, so they had to stop people walking around. They told us first that there were 45 passengers on board, although it later changed to 44. That's when we knew what we were dealing with. It was good to see them take charge.

That day has changed my life. I don't know exactly how yet. I still raise my family in the same way. But another second and it would have landed on our town. It makes you look at life and appreciate it more. I've met the president, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. I sat in the first lady's box at the Kennedy Center.

On the other hand, it makes you angry that there are people in the world who hate us so much that they would want to kill innocent civilians. I worry about our country. But I don't worry on a daily basis about anything like that happening again around here. I know Shanksville wasn't the target that day.

The town hasn't changed much in many ways. But there is an impact that a huge event like that will have on a small community like this. New York is New York -- it's a big city and it'll get through it. But Shanksville? There's more traffic with people coming to look at the site and visitors we never used to have, but nobody's putting locks on their doors.

And you won't find anyone around here trying to cash in on it. It's still a great place to raise children. We don't have any crime or a huge drug problem. There are 247 people in this town and four churches, so that should tell you something.

We got to know all of the victims' families, some of them on a very personal basis. But it's an awesome responsibility for a small town. Politically not much has changed. I supported Bush from the beginning and for the most part the country is behind him.

I don't like the fact that some believe this war in Iraq is the U.S. against the Muslims. It's not that. We are the most giving nation in the world, and we do more for the poor than anybody else. We're not a country that goes into other countries to attack them, but goes to war for the defense of others. I wish the rest of the world would see that.

People do talk politics when they come into my store. We agree and disagree and put our two cents in. Some people think we're in a mess because of this war and others of us support it. I'd say there's definitely more of that kind of talk now. But then there wasn't a whole lot to talk about before.

-- Gary Younge

I Gde Wiratha
Owner of Paddy's Bar in Kuta, Bali [Indonesia], whose nightclub strip was bombed Oct. 12, 2002. Death toll: 202, mainly Australians and Indonesians.

Of course I heard the bombs. I was at my hotel at the time, finishing a meeting with friends from Singapore. Three minutes later, my friend called my mobile. He'd just landed at the airport and said he'd seen a fireball in the sky. At the airport he'd heard it was Paddy's. So he called me. "You've been bombed," he said. "Stop pulling my leg," I said. Then every two minutes someone called me. They all mentioned the bomb. I realized then it must be true.

After half an hour my brother called me. He said don't go anywhere, our place has been bombed. It was then that I got scared. My 10-year-old son and wife were afraid. So I didn't go anywhere. At 7.30 a.m. I got up and went there. There was blood everywhere. There were still bodies there. I almost fainted.

I thought my staff must have been among the dead. I washed my head with drinking water. I was seeing stars. I didn't know what to think about the staff. They're like family to me. If one of them had died, it would have been like a part of me dying.

It would have been much worse if God had not been protecting us. I believe 100 percent in my temple behind the bar. It was not damaged, including the umbrella in it. The generator next to it collapsed like a Coca-Cola can. And next to it were two [100-liter] tanks full of diesel. If those had exploded Oh, my God, think what would have been the effect. But they didn't explode, even though the generator was destroyed. God was at work there.

I then called all my staff who could still walk and asked them to gather at the hotel. I asked them how many people had died. Amazingly none of the staff had died.

At 6 p.m. the real flood of questioning started. By journalists, police, military. It went on for a month and a half. I'm now fed up with journalists because they asked me: "Mr. Gde, why was your place bombed? Why are all your staff still alive and so many guests dead?" How can I explain? "Was there no emergency door? Was there no security?"

I said, "How can you talk about security." At the World Trade Center they had a lot of security but there could be an attack there. We have had bombs in Palestine, at the [Jakarta] Marriott hotel. We're just a bar in Bali. Could we protect ourselves more than them?

But the hardest questions came from my son, Putu Kelvin. He asked: "Why must we pay this? There are so many places, why us? Has daddy sinned?" I can't give an answer to this question. "Has daddy sinned so badly we had to be bombed?" This is the question of a 10-year-old. "Or has this happened because daddy is a thief, or corrupt?"

It was very hard to answer. I can't say this is political, or rational, or unilateral. He wouldn't understand. This was the hardest question I had to answer. He can see I work hard, but he doesn't know why I was bombed. I can answer the journalists and the police, but not this.

I don't want to blame someone. They're human beings. Only God can make a decision. If God doesn't agree, maybe it doesn't happen. Maybe it's also karma, against me, against the Balinese, against Indonesia, against Asia. Who knows? They just used our place. So I think: "Right, this has happened. Let's forget it. Let's move on. We've got to lead our lives."

We Balinese have a certain attitude to life. If someone harms me, I should not harm him back. If someone throws shit at me, I will throw back flowers.

I was so proud when I discovered that the bombers were not Balinese. They can take our place, but they cannot take away our soul. Bali is still paradise. It is still like before. It took me four months to decide to reopen. Kuta was quiet. Tourists couldn't go to the area; it was closed off. Business was dead for two and a half months. Many investigators came with so much equipment.

Every time I went to the site the people would ask, "Boss, when are you going to reopen?" The staff were just spending their time playing football and asking, "When? When boss?" So I decided to reopen.

According to the Balinese religion, anywhere that so many people die automatically becomes a cemetery. We cannot use the land.

This [new Paddy's] used to be an open space used for parking. We moved slowly. I didn't have that much money. It was impossible to get credit. My wallet was almost empty because I had no guests, but my costs were the same. Now the traffic jams are returning -- it means the tourists are coming back.

The Balinese say you don't have the same event twice. Or if you do, you are very stupid and deserve it. So the Balinese are really concerned that the security has to be intensified. Now we have volunteer guards from community groups everywhere.

What happened is part of the story of life and you have to ensure it does not happen again. You must take care of yourselves, your family, your property and your community.

-- John Aglionby

Jason Mosher
A petty officer 3rd class on the USS Cole when the warship was hit by explosives hidden in a small white fishing boat, driven into its hull during a fueling stop at Aden, Yemen, on Oct. 12, 2000. Death toll: 17 servicemen.

I had just made a journal entry on my computer up in the radar room, and had come down into the mess line for lunch. Do you want to know what I wrote? I'll read it to you: "Since the captain has decided that to tell anyone back home practically anything is some kind of violation of national security, it might be best to tell myself Right now we are refueling. There are a bunch of men on a little motorboat One has a sweatshirt that says Free Kuwait (from the 1991 war). It's just kind of weird We all think of the whole area as enemy territory."

I was just waiting in line when all of a sudden there was a bang. It sounded just like a really loud pop, and then everything was dark and quiet. Obviously, I knew something was very wrong right away, and I knew the ship had shaken. I couldn't feel it because it happened so fast, but all of a sudden I was crouched.

We fought flooding for another 36 hours before everything stabilized, and some spaces had to be sealed. We didn't have power for three days, not to the whole ship. I had to sleep outside for a few nights because we didn't have air conditioning. Having to get around a ship with a flashlight to take a shower in the dark -- it was almost surreal.

We felt extremely vulnerable, definitely vulnerable. After I did the muster, I went up to the weather deck and the gunners master was just handing out pistols. If you could hold a gun, you got one. And you pretty much stood around the perimeter of the ship, and if anything came within 500 yards you pointed at it. At one point there were a lot of people coming in our direction, and everyone just kneejerked and started aiming at them. We felt very, very vulnerable. We were over there, and it was Yemen.

After that there were no friends there. When I went into town to give blood I was nervous. I was thinking any one of these people could be waiting to blow up this van with people in it to give blood.

But I did get a chance to get down in the ship and see the damage in the mess line where I had been. I saw the spot where I would have been standing if I had been on the other side of the ship.

That it could even have happened! Even though we are in the Navy, and it is the military and there is always the possibility of combat, there is still that element of invincibility -- that it won't happen to me. It somehow never crossed my mind. It had never been done before; we had never heard of a boat pulling up to another point and exploding. There were no references. There was no idea that this could ever happen.

I had never heard of al-Qaida before, or Osama bin Laden, or any of these people. If it's an explosion by a boat, it's obviously terrorism. It wasn't a blatant attack. It was someone who snuck up to the side of the ship and blew themselves up. Who would use trickery like that? How can that be considered a legitimate attack by one nation against another?

Obviously it was a precursor to Sept. 11. Since that time in Aden I've come home to the U.S., doing a desk job before I'm discharged in 2006. I got married and I'm going to technical college. I want to work in biomedical engineering when I leave the Navy.

When I look around, it seems everywhere that groups are polarizing. It seems to me like it is not just with Muslims and Christians, and Muslims and Jews, and Israelis and Palestinians. You are either one extreme or the other extreme I don't know how that happened, but that just seems to be what is going on.

Maybe that is why we are seeing this kind of terrorism, and seeing this kind of conflict escalate and spread. [The U.S.] was founded by people who were God-fearing men. They were Christians. They wrote the Constitution, wrote on principles that they had because they were upstanding men and Christian men. Extremists are the people like Hamas, groups like that. They will never like America because they are Islamic and some sects of Islam are just completely hateful towards Christianity. Christian people over there are killed daily. There are some Islamic groups that seek out churches just because people believe in Jesus, and they slaughter them just because of their faith. That is what happens, and that is what the extremist factions want. If they met a Christian, they would put him to the sword, so to speak, and no questions asked.

There will always be someone else, I think. It is just a sign of the times and the way the world is going to be. I don't see an end. I don't think it's ever going to end.

-- Suzanne Goldenberg

Canon Ian Sherwood
Chaplain to the British consul general in Istanbul, Turkey. The consulate and the local HSBC bank headquarters were bombed on Nov. 20, 2003. Combined death toll: 30, mainly Turkish.

I had actually been due at the consulate that morning, at the very building that was blown up. I was supposed to go around 10 a.m. but remembered there was paperwork I needed to do urgently and decided to go the following day.

The blast was at around 11 a.m. I was in my office at my desk when I heard it. We have a lot of refugees in the church, and the first thing I did was to check on the children. I had no idea the consulate had been the target, but as I walked [towards it] and looked down I realized that the two gate lodges that were used as offices were completely gone only two nights before the archbishop of Canterbury was here and we had dinner there with Roger [Short, the British consul].

I walked right around the circumference of the neighborhood and realized that lots of people must have been dead. And then, it seemed, the whole world was on the telephone as people in Britain began ringing in, asking about loved ones.

There were certain pastoral things I had to do, like seeing those who were bereaved. It was terribly numbing partly because I felt very alone trying to cope with what had to be done. As there had been another bomb attack a few days before [on Nov. 15 two synagogues were targeted by suicide bombers], we all wondered when the next one would be.

Time moved on. We held a requiem, a very beautiful service with about a thousand people, less than a month later, and that meant we were able to celebrate Christmas, put the bombing aside.

But every morning I weep when I think about it, even now. Not just for the people who died here, but for all those who have been slaughtered by al-Qaida over the past 20 years. It [the attack] brought greater sympathy and understanding of how truly shocking this Islamicist terrorism is. I think the bombing in Istanbul brought home to us the suffering of normal Muslims because it is they who suffer the most from this.

Suddenly we were drawn into this terrible drama that so many have had to suffer all over the place, not just in Afghanistan or Iraq but in countries in Africa and across the Middle East.

The bombing drew us together in a way that these things can do. Victoria Short [widow of the slain consul] kept an open house for 10 days afterwards and was of immense service to the British community here.

Life has gone on, but we still carry this feeling of bereavement and it's not going to disappear. The carnage and the awfulness of it continues to reveal itself. You hear of terrible stories in the neighborhood around the consulate, like the dusty thing on someone's balcony turning out to be a human kidney or the object in a pipe turning out to be a human hand.

I'm very interested in the rise of Islamicism, and I did wonder at what stage our community would have to face it. For years and years I've talked about it. All through [President] Clinton's administration I was astonished at how Osama bin Laden was allowed to continue like this and not be brought to justice.

I am interested in the man's spirituality, how it was forged into a major terrorist movement. Islam is a wonderful, interesting, romantic subject but you can see, if you know anything about the Koran, how it has always got this potential [for violence]. It's a bit like if we just read the Old Testament -- we could always be thinking about holy wars. But there is more to civilization than that.

There is the redemption of civilization that forgiveness and redemption are at the heart of what we all stand for, whether we are liberals or conservatives. It is such a stark contrast to the idea that you wish to obliterate all your enemies, turn them into Muslims and take over their societies. In that sense this [terror campaign] is a third jihad, one that threatens our culture and our society. People seem not to like this, but I feel it has to be said that the problem is that not enough Muslims speak out in horror of what al-Qaida is doing. And I am talking about decent, normal British citizens, Turkish citizens.

Now of course we don't associate good, decent Muslims with al-Qaida -- it's very important to say that -- but it is rather intriguing that there is very little that has been said in shock and horror at the loss of loved Turkish and British friends here. Those who represent Islam have not been very outspoken in condemning carnage, diabolical carnage Why are good, decent Muslims not speaking out? Are they frightened? Do they sympathize? Why are they so silent?

Another thing that bothers me is why is it that religions other than Islam are constantly made to feel diminished in the Islamic world? Why is it that we are made to feel that we misunderstand Islam, when Islam in our own free societies makes no effort to stand up for us Christians in Islamic societies?

There are certain countries that have the potential to lead the way. Turkey is desperate to be part of the European Union. It has a peaceful, democratic Islamic government. We [the British community] love Turkey, and that's why we ask, ought it not be time for this part of the Islamic world to sit up and address the shocking diminishment of all other religions in its domain?

Unfortunately the West has turned in on itself. Europe has turned against America, the Democrats in the United States have turned against America It is the innocent people and not the guilty people who are being blamed. The guilty people are the bombers, are al-Qaida -- they are the people who did this.

-- Helena Smith

Jose Ramón Fernández Mariño
Specialist in orthopedic surgery and traumatology, on duty in the accident and emergency ward of Madrid, Spain's Gregorio Marañon hospital on March 11, 2004, when a dozen bombs exploded on commuter trains. Death toll: 191 people.

What has stayed in my mind from that day is the noise of the ambulances. It was as if there was a giant wasps' nest of them out there in the street. That sound is something that has remained in my head. Thinking back, that was how, in the hospital, we first realized something truly serious was happening.

The first ones to arrive weren't too badly injured. But I remember they were very traumatized, very frightened, most of them with burns and -- something that made an impact on all of us -- with their hair totally burned off.

This sort of things leaves its mark. Emotionally, it is bound to have an effect. And no, it's not the same as all those other things I have seen as a doctor. I started in this hospital in 1984 and I have never seen anything like this. I have had to deal with several ETA bomb attacks. I remember a bomb in a bus full of civil guardsmen. There were lots of open fractures and amputations then too, but you can't compare one with the other.

The others were terrible, but this was, I don't know how to say it The people who came into the hospital this time could not even speak. In the other terrorist attacks people were shocked but they were able to talk. These ones couldn't say anything at all. They were totally closed in on themselves. Many couldn't even hear you because their eardrums had been blown out.

We really began to see just how extreme things had got when they started bringing us people on railway station benches. They must have run out of stretchers. Some of the injured came with legs already totally amputated. Others had them just barely hanging on. Those amputations had to be sorted out -- and that meant cutting off more bone. One of the things that most had to be dealt with were people who had eyes blown out. That was another result of the shock wave.

Adrenaline works, you know. The adrenaline charge keeps you going all through the day, but it leaves you wrecked the next day.

You have to organize yourself psychologically, whatever way you can, to carry on. You could see some people, especially the younger doctors, were very badly affected by what was happening, and crying. Was I sadder because of it all? Well. yes, I was sad, more serious, for a few days, but not enough to need any professional psychological help.

A kind of sadness stays with you. But I think we did things well. The feeling is sweet and sour, of sadness and upset, but with pride at having tried to give your best, at being able to deal with a situation that I don't think anybody else in Europe has ever had to confront.

I don't dwell on all of this; I don't worry about what might happen next. When I go to see my parents, I go on the metro. I'm not afraid. If something is going to happen, then it will happen -- what can we do about it?

The other day, I was talking to an uncle who lives in New York. He was on holiday on Sept. 11 but worked in the World Trade Center and was there the previous time they attacked it. He asked: "Aren't you scared now to catch the metro? Aren't you scared of catching the bus?"

And I said: "Well, if it has to happen, it will happen. There is no point fretting about it. What we are not going to do is mortgage our lives to this bunch of bastards."

If you work out the possibilities of something happening, you realize it is more dangerous to cross the street in front of the hospital. We can't let them hold our lives and our freedoms ransom.

-- Giles Tremlett

Taoufiq Moussaif
Defense lawyer, acting for some of the hundreds of Moroccan men charged in a crackdown after five Casablanca targets (some Jewish) were bombed May 16, 2003. Death toll: 33 members of the public and 12 suicide bombers.

I had about 30 clients among the hundreds charged following the Casablanca bombings, including the preacher Hassan Kettani, who has been sentenced to 20 years, and the preacher Mohammed Abdel Wahab Rafiqi, sentenced to 30 years. According to the court, they were the agitators for the people responsible for the drama of May 16. And Hicham Saber [who replaced Kettani as preacher at Kettani's mosque near Rabat, after Kettani was banned], who was acquitted.

One thing I want to say clearly: There was a kind of conspiracy among officials and lawyers' associations to make sure that those accused in connection with May 16 didn't have a lawyer with them when they came before the investigating magistrate. In most cases, when I came into contact with a client I was presented with a file already well sewn up. Well-rounded declarations, signed statements, very finely done so that no court could reject it.

Ever since I began to represent clients in al-Qaida-related cases [in 2002] I have had a lot of obstacles placed in my way by officials. The police began to ask my clients' families lots of questions, about why they chose me as a lawyer, whether I had any connection with the Jihad Salafists [Islamist fringe].

After the Casablanca explosions they contacted my father to say, "Your son is causing us problems. He is in contact with the press and human rights groups." I come from a bourgeois family here in Rabat, wholesalers of auto parts, bicycle parts, metal components. People began to make problems for my relatives. In one ministry they said, "Look, this contract we had with you, we're sorry but we can't go through with it." That was on May 26 [2003]. I remember because I was at the clinic where my wife had just had a baby. When these relatives of mine came to the clinic to see her, they said to me, "Look what you've done to us now! We've had good relations with the government for decades. You've spoiled everything we built up over 50 years!"

Then in June a man came up to me as I was leaving my office. A man in his 60s. He said, "I'm a friend of your father. I want to talk to you a little." (My father said later he knew this person vaguely from the past). So I got into his car. He said, "Look, Morocco is now at a point where there are people who want to destabilize it. They want to attack the political system and destroy everything that is good about Morocco. We want everyone to fall into line against these terrorists, so I'm obliged to give you some advice. You must avoid the press and human rights organizations."

At first I didn't take it seriously. I just said to him, "Look, I'm a lawyer. I do my job as the law dictates. If you are bothered by one of my declarations, you should tell me. Then we can talk about it. I know the security people are doing a job also."

Then he invited me three times to people's houses where there were university deans, highly placed people, people from political parties. We talked all evening sometimes. They asked me to help them with their investigation. I told them, "That is your job, not mine."

It's not my role. If you are a lawyer you have to stick to being a lawyer. I'm not crafty enough to work with those people.

There is one thing I insist on. A person, whatever he may do, whether he's a terrorist or not, or a gentleman or a criminal or a crook, for me it's the same thing. I do my work. I'm a man of the law and I practice my trade within the law. Yes, I've become known as the Islamists' lawyer. But Islamists run into thousands; I only represented 30 or so. Other lawyers helped more than 50 of those held.

In the weeks after the bombings they were talking about dissolving the PJD. [Moussaif is also a member of the Justice and Development Party (PJD), the only Islamists in the Moroccan Parliament.] All Islamic organizations were under heavy surveillance. The PJD had no connection with those attacks -- the PJD is for democracy, human rights, for stability. The party leadership decided I needed to get the go-ahead from the party before taking on any client charged in connection with the bombings. Of course I didn't accept that.

After the Casablanca bombings the big losers were human rights. In Morocco we're not living in the same atmosphere as before May 16. Now, no one can be sure of being left in peace, or that if he is taken to court he will get a fair trial.

-- Eileen Byrne

Nitza Rubabshi
A nursery teacher, age 38, Nitza and her family were among a group of Israeli tourists at the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, when it was bombed on Nov. 28, 2002. Death toll: 15, most of them Kenyan.

We decided to go to Kenya because we were afraid of terror attacks here in Israel and we got a really good offer: $500 each for eight days. We thought it would be quiet and peaceful. At first my three daughters did not want to go, but we convinced them that they would love it.

When we landed I was quite shocked. It was like Gaza. There were cars packed with people and barefoot children pushing trolleys. It was very Third World and I didn't expect that; I don't know why.

At the hotel, it was beautiful. I began to think that we had made the right decision. But I didn't like the rooms so we came back to the lobby and our luggage was brought down to the center of the lobby.

Just as I began to explain to the Israeli holiday rep what was wrong with our rooms, the explosion went off. Ayelet, my daughter, was close to me and she was unharmed, but then I saw my husband running around crying out the names of the other two. They had been standing next to the luggage, which was now in flames.

My only thought then was to find Rotem and Alona. I remember screaming, "Oh, why did we come here?" I felt very guilty. For 20 minutes we didn't know whether they were alive or dead. We ran around shouting their names for what seemed like an eternity before heading towards the beach. We met them halfway. I was so relieved. We all hugged and we didn't want to let go.

There was no way we could continue our holiday after that, so we were very relieved when someone from El Al security came to tell us that there was a plane coming to take us home. When we saw the Israeli aircraft at the airport we knew we were in safe hands. It was like being back in Israel. We went home in the prime minister's plane. I don't know if people from other countries were as well looked after.

The best thing was coming back during the Chanukah holiday. All the family visited and that made life become normal very quickly. We all had trauma counseling after we came back. That helped us cope with our fears. Rotem has a fear of buses and will rarely go on them. But on the whole we decided that we will go on living.

My husband now has a fear that when the whole family is together we are at risk, and every time we see something on the news -- a bombing here or the bombing in Madrid -- all the memories come flooding back. I always remember the fear that my daughters were dead. There is nothing worse for any parent.

We are all much more nervous. I go out but I always make sure there is a security guard at the restaurant. I get nervous in crowds.

Since Kenya, we have been abroad. Everybody said that the best thing to do was to get straight on a plane. We know there is danger everywhere. We went to Ireland, and my daughters have been to the United States and England. They have to phone home every day, which is something they would not have done in the past.

We have managed to get by, but the memory is always there. Just yesterday I was sitting on the balcony and I remembered the image of my husband crying after the explosion because he thought our two daughters were dead.

-- Conal Urquhart


Salon Staff

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