‘I AM SAFE, I AM HIDING'
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Wednesday, September 25 2013
“I AM safe...I am hiding in a supermarket.”
Those words, sent to a friend via a cellular phone text message, were the last from Trinidadian Ravindra ‘Ravi’ Ramrattan shortly before he was killed by terrorists who invaded a mall in Nairobi, Kenya on the weekend.
Ramrattan, 30, sent this text message believing he had given the terrorists the slip as he tried to hide inside a store. This was revealed yesterday by Ramrattan’s sister Rishma, 24, during an interview at the Ramrattan family home in Chaguanas.
She spoke of her brother’s last text message as she recalled how her brother, the 2002 President’s Gold medal national scholarship winner, tried to escape from the terrorists who went on a shooting rampage.
Ramrattan, who had been working as a financial economist in Nairobi for the past four years, had last visited his parents at their Munroe Road, Cunupia home in June, 2012.
Rishma said that her brother was at the mall with friends when the terrorists stormed the building. While his friends all managed to scamper to safety, Ramrattan fled into a supermarket where it believed he remained hidden for three hours before being discovered and executed.
“Three hours after the attack on Saturday, Ravi text messaged a friend in Kenya, to say that he was hiding safely in the supermarket. So everyone over there thought he was safe. I was receiving updates from friends who were circulating his information from the ground in Kenya,” Rishma said.
Rishma, an attorney who works in the office of the Attorney General, said that her brother’s friends contacted her on Saturday night. They kept her abreast about her brother’s fate via telephone calls as well as live chats on Facebook.
Rishma, who has another brother, Rajiv, 28, an engineer who lives in England, said, the family kept their hopes high that Ravindra would survive the ordeal. On Sunday night, Rishma said, Ramrattan’s friend in Nairobi telephoned and said that there was a photograph of Ramrattan, which had been circulating the Internet. The terrorist attack began on Saturday when gunmen stormed the Westgate shopping mall and took shoppers hostage. The Somali based armed group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack and a group from the militant outfit remained in the mall searching and killing shoppers. A total of 68 people were killed. (SEE PAGE 19A)
Rishma said, on Sunday, her mother Parbatee telephoned her son but the calls went unanswered. Rishma said, normally, she would write on Ramrattan’s Facebook page, such posts as, “Brother where are you?”
“On Saturday I wrote on his Facebook page but he never responded. I received the initial phone call that he was missing at the mall. His friends were checking hospitals and mortuaries between Saturday and Sunday,” Rishma said.
Ramrattan was a research economist with Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya, an independent trust established to support the development of inclusive financial markets in the African nation. Ramrattan, the eldest of three siblings, had been living there for the last four years.
“I kept watching the BBC news, checking Facebook, Twitter...anything I could have possibly did online to get news about my brother. In the end it was her brother’s friends in Kenya who got in contact with her with the jarring news that Ravindra was indeed dead.
Mother Parbatee, yesterday said that all of her children were her jewels.
She said her son had lived a full life. She added that he had always wanted the family to visit Kenya and said she is considering fulfilling his wish even though he is no longer alive.
“He lived it all and had an extra ordinary life. It was amazing how he balanced his work and study. Reading from comments on Internet, persons said that he showed them in Kenya just how to party like a Trini. He was my gem. A hero to us and many other people worldwide,” the weeping mother said.
She said that officials from FSD in Kenya, where Ramrattan worked, are footing the bill to have his body flown back to Trinidad for final rites. Ramrattan’s body, up to yesterday, was still at a mortuary in Kenya and the family is unsure how long it would take to have it flown back home for the funeral service.