Surviving Dusit attack: The horror and trauma

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Wednesday January 15, 2020

 

What if today was your last day? What if you had no chance to say goodbye?

Last year, on a day like this, all seemed normal after lunch at the DusitD2 complex. Seated behind her desk in the fourth-floor office was Alice* (not her real name), 33, a manager at Control Risk Company. All of a sudden, she heard a loud bang.

She looked through the window and could only see thick smoke, so everyone began running out in panic.

“I stepped outside our offices only to bump in a group of colleagues from other offices carrying fire extinguishers, racing down the staircase. We all believed it was a fire until we got to the ground floor,” she recounted.

While on the ground floor, they further bumped into a man carrying guns and firing everywhere. Here they knew all was not well, they were under attack.

“I only saw a shadow of the man. Everyone was running downstairs and when we heard gunshots, everyone turned. It was chaotic at that moment. Everyone was screaming and in a stampede, I fell on the staircase,” she said.

Luckily, as she picked herself from the floor, someone opened a door just on the staircase and grabbed her hand.

“At first, we hid in a boardroom that was just at the entrance. We were terrified and in panic. We discovered the hiding place was not safe and we opted to scroll one by one to the server room. Here we found ourselves squeezed in a cabinet but we could hear footsteps of someone marching in boots,” Alice recalled.

Everyone was holding their breath, with eyes closed but tears still finding their way down the cheeks.

“Some were praying loudly, others were crying while some were lost. I was praying but my mind could only think about my three little kids. I did not have a phone to call my husband,” she said.

MISSED BY A WHISKER

Alice said the shadow of death kept following her. After two hours of hiding in the cabinet, they finally got some Recce squad officers to rescue them.

“We were on our knees, crawling in the parking just below the building that houses I&M bank. Above us, the attacker started shooting at us and the bullet missed me just by a whisker,” she said.

She said she felt a cold chill down her spine and almost collapsed, but her colleagues encouraged her to hang on.

One of the officers who was behind pushed her, letting the bullet hit the ground, missing her thigh. “I must have been the target but it hit the ground,” she said.

After many counselling sessions together with her colleagues, Alice said they have recovered from the trauma and are moving on with their lives normally.

A security officer attached to Wells Fargo security firm recounted his experience. “It was just a normal day and I was attending to a client who had been waiting outside for offices to resume after the lunch break. Before I recorded her details, we were deafened by a loud bang just outside the entrance. Before we got to know what was happening, gunshots erupted,” he said.

The guard grabbed the female client and hid in a small opening behind the entrance wall.

“I saw the terrorist. He was just shooting at anyone and anything. I saw my colleagues manning the barrier being shot at and I knew it was all over for us,” the guard, who sought anonymity, said.

He said the events were so traumatising and it has not been easy recovering.

“When all was done and dusted, we were told to report back to work after four days, and here I am today, living each day as it comes,” he said.

A former Red Hose PR employee, who has since moved on, said though she has recovered from the shock, the events are still fresh in her mind.

The employee, using the abbreviations AS on her name, said she still occasionally has sleepless nights following the horrific attack.

She was in the complex when six armed terrorists stormed the premises and indiscriminately shot people, leaving 21 dead.

AS, then a group account manager at the PR firm, said she had never appreciated the gift of life as she does now after the attack.

She describes the night of the attack as the longest in her life. “I could not sleep after I got home. When the night went dead silent, the gunshots kept sounding in my head,” she said.

On the day of the attack, she was walking out of her office near the entrance to the Dusit complex. Then the first grenade went off. “I heard a loud blast followed by people running into the office, saying there were grenades in the block. I panicked,” she said.

AS and her colleagues took the stairs out of the office. Security officers had arrived by then. “They made everyone come out using one way and they became sitting ducks as the terrorists shot at them,” she says.

It was the first time she heard gunshots up close. “They were very loud. I kept hearing them even after I had gone to bed.”

“I kept thinking how lucky I was, as I ran in the direction that the attackers were firing and I was not injured. How I managed to escape remains a mystery,” she said.