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Survivors of Nairobi Blast Want to Meet with Victims of Terror in US - 2001-10-11

Survivors of the August 1998 Nairobi bomb blast are hoping to visit New York City to meet with victims of last month's terrorist attack. The Kenyans' hope their experiences can help the American survivors in trying to rebuild their lives.

Douglas Sidialo was blinded when a bomb went off at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi three years ago. Over 200 people were killed and more than 5,000 injured when a truck bomb exploded on August 7, 1998. On that same day, another bomb exploded at the U.S. Embassy in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania killing 11 people and injuring 70.

U.S. officials say the two attacks were masterminded by Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect behind last month's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Mr. Sidialo is a remarkably positive and optimistic man. He has set up Seventh Visual, an organization that brings together more than three-thousand survivors of the August 7 Nairobi attack. They are, in his words, the family of the bomb blast.

Mr. Sidialo says the group meets regularly to share common problems. "I felt that the only way the victims can recover is by them coming together as a united family," he said. "We know what problems the other person has. And by knowing, we are able to sit down together and see how we are able to solve such a problem. Be it a family problem. Problems with widows and in-laws are quite a number. We have others having marriage breakages because of somebody injured in the face and the husband does not love her anymore. For the orphans who are stressed because they were much loved by their father. How can we make these children realize that just by the fact the father is gone, they are still having a long life to live and they can make it better in life?"

Last year, six of the Kenyans, including Mr. Sidialo, met with survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Mr. Sidialo says everyone benefited from sharing their experiences, and they are now close friends. If he can get funding, he says he intends to do the same with those who were affected by last month's terrorist attack.

Mr. Sidialo has this advice for survivors of the terror attacks in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. "They have to accept reality. It has happened," said Mr. Sidialo. "There is very little they can do to reverse the situation. After the acceptance, then they need to see how they can be able to go about their lives again. I believe this is not the time to give up. This is not the time to complain. This is not the time to condemn. They need a lot of therapy, especially for the victims to come together as groups."

Mr. Sidialo says he never questioned why he was blinded in the Nairobi bomb blast. Instead, he believes it happened for a purpose. Since 1998, he has devoted his life to helping and encouraging those less fortunate than himself.