Sunday August 10 2014

Remembering August 10, 2001 with joy and sorrow

By Harold Acemah

Friday, August 10, 2001, was, to all intents and purposes, like any other week day. I woke up as usual at 6am, listened to the BBC Network Africa programme from 6.30 to 7am; after a shower, dressed, had a glass of orange juice and at 8am was off to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs then located at Embassy House.

After a hard day’s work, I left the ministry at 5.30pm for home via Jinja Road which was my usual route to Bugolobi, but as fate would have it, there was traffic jam on my usual route and I, therefore, detoured via Acacia Avenue [now John Babiiha Avenue] and Lugogo By-pass. Little did I know that I was destined for a death-trap!

I was listening to BBC’s Focus on Africa programme (6.30–7pm) as I was driving along Lugogo By-pass and as I turned at the Jinja Road junction to head to Bugolobi, I was hit by a speeding matatu; the impact caused my engine to switch off and since I had not worn the seat belt my chest hit the steering wheel which resulted in a blackout! That could have been the end of my story, but the LORD said not yet; about thirty or so minutes later, I regained consciousness. A visiting Zambian doctor who happened to be at the Kampala Rugby Club gave me first aid and called for an ambulance from Kampala International Hospital (KIH) which arrived an hour later; I was driven to KIH for emergency treatment.

That was the beginning of a long and painful story; from KIH I was taken to Kololo Hospital and as my condition deteriorated I eventually ended at Mulago Hospital two weeks later where Dr William Obote (RIP), Dr Samuel Oola and Dr Omagino carried a four-hour operation on me in the nick of time. As Dr Obote would tell me many months later, he was sceptical about my recovery; he added that it was the Lord who used him to save my life!

How sad it is that he died on February 16, 2007 when Ugandans desperately needed him, but I am consoled by the fact that he is with our LORD. May his soul rest in eternal peace!

As I opined in my column of September 8, 2013 titled, God exists and is alive; whether you believe or not is immaterial, I am a living witness of God’s love, mercy and grace. During the one month I was admitted at Mulago, hovering between life and death, I had a vision at the beginning of September 2001 which some doubted like Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus was initially doubted by some of the early disciples.

One of the online readers of my September 8, 2013 opinion posted a cynical feedback in which he dismissed my vision as hallucinations caused by trauma. He was not the only doubting Thomas; the day after I had that two-hour strange experience, Professor Emilio Ovuga, then a Consultant Psychiatrist at Mulago Hospital was requested by Dr Obote to examine me and in particular ascertain whether I had suffered a mental breakdown.

After a thorough examination, Prof Ovuga concluded that I was of sound mind which confirmed what I had already told my doctor, relatives and friends who witnessed the noisy spiritual experience. Let me share a little more of that experience which has greatly strengthened my faith.

World Trade Centre
One of the events I saw in the vision was the World Trade Centre in New York burning furiously and jet fighters bombing a mountainous terrain; I kept shouting that they were bombing Mr George Bush who was US president at the time. This happened many days before the tragic attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. I got irritated when the people who were in my room did not see or hear what I assumed everybody present could see and hear!

During my tour of duty in New York from 1974-1980, I lived for four years at the Waterside Plaza located at 23rd Street and FDR Drive, near the UN International School (UNIS). My apartment was on the 32nd floor and the living room faced downtown Manhattan, including New York’s then trade mark namely, the World Trade Centre. The scenery from the 32nd floor, especially at night, was spectacular as many friends who visited me can attest, such as George Aron, Ephraim Kamuntu, Okello Oculi, Rachel Mayanja and William Naggaga.

I visited the World Trade Centre many times and often took my guests there for lunch or dinner at the Windows of the World Restaurant on the 110th floor; it was so high that on a cloudy day one would see clouds flying down below the restaurant. The twin towers were so humongous that one could never imagine that they would crumble as tragically as they did on September 11, 2001.

The first time I saw the footage of the September 11, 2001 tragedy was in October 2001 in Toronto after I had gained enough energy to watch television and listen to news and music. I had an eerie feeling that I had seen it before; it was, in fact, what I witnessed in the vision! It is amazing how things we take for granted become a difficult challenge when one is living on the edge of life and death.

I thank God for His grace, mercy and love for us which has enabled me to survive until today, 13 years after what could have been the end of my journey here on the earth. God is sovereign. His love endures forever; He continues to reveal His ways, purposes and His will today as He did during ancient times!
May the LORD’s Holy Name be praised forever!

Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat.