Remembering the August 7th 1998 Al-Qaeda bomb blast in Nairobi


I had just returned to Kenya from the US. I’d attended a party at Peter Beard’s ranch in Montauk, after interviewing him on a story.

On August 7th I was meant interview Beard’s nemesis, Dr. Richard Leakey at his office in the Nairobi suburb of Hurlingham. But on the flight from London I became violently ill. (I always thought it had to do with Beard’s weird and intense energy). When I landed I headed straight downtown to see my then GP., Dr. Soman, whose office happened to be just a few blocks from the U.S. Embassy. (The embassy was a squat building that sat MGH next to the Cooperative House, an ugly-ass white building shaped like a pair of bell-bottoms.)

Dr. Soman told me I was dehydrated and sent me to the Nairobi hospital. I reached the hospital at around 9am. Just as Dr. Silverstein plunged a hypodermic needle in my arm and connected me to a saline drip an explosion of some kind occurred.

We both looked out the window at a clear blue sky. My only frame of reference was a massive thunderclap. The comparison fell short by more than a mile, literally. Silverstein remarked that he hadn’t heard a sound like that since the Norfolk hotel was bombed by the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1980.

Minutes later I was wheeled into the patients wing and phones began ringing all through re hospital. The wall-mounted televisions were switched on showing images of bloodied and charred victims of a bomb blast that targeted the U.S. Embassy, near where I’d just been. I was given a sedative but recall sirens blaring. Thirty minutes later some of the same people who’d I’d seen on television were being wheeled into my room.

Al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden was already being blamed for the truck bombing that killed over 200 people. I will never forget learning that then U.S. Ambassador Prudence Bushnell was in a private room nearby. When I felt better I took a peak into her room. I could only glimpse her short dark hair and fair skin as she lay in bed. As far as I could tell she didn’t suffer a scratch.

U.S. Embassy, Nairobi, Kenya, 1998