Latest from KTJ

Only the screen of my computer and the small emergency fixture above the African statue light the dining room. I can hear familiar voices and urgent news in French passing through the crowd. We have all gathered here after the attack and are waiting to be evacuated from N’Djamena. A plane flies close to the banks of the Cheri and several people jump. My heart sinks to my stomach, it sounded like a bomb.

An hour and half ago, Le Meridien was under fire. From who, we don’t know and have no intention of pointing fingers in an all too complicated military offensive on the city. Gabriel was in room 306 connecting to the bgan and uploading our recent video. I was in front of the room filming French military setting up their stations at either end of the L-shaped building. A think brown layer of smoke incases the city before the blue of the sky takes over.

Gabriel retrieves me and brings to the back porch, you can see more artillery in the sky from here. We wrap up, he goes to the bathroom which is at the front of the room, facing the street and I stay to send one more email.

Bum. Bum. Bam. Bam. Bummbum. Plaster shot from the side of the wall. The smell of smoke creeps under the door. Sh*!. F*-#. Okay. Grab the bgan, grab the bag, we need to join the others. My heart races and we make our way to the door. The bullets riddle the wall and door of 306. S-*^! No wait. Okay. Retreat to the behind the bed until it stops. A moment of silence, our only chance. Staying well below the waist high wall, my legs carry me to the staircase, my momentum almost tipping me over forward. Down three flights of switchback stairs and to the left through the doors to the lounge. Everyone is gone but a few people lying flat on their stomachs or backs.

I duck into the corner. The men surrounding me speak English, wondering where we came from and what we saw. I explain the situation from the top floor. A few of the men get up and move, like others, towards the all glass window entrance at the front of the hotel as silence settles around us.

Oh Sh*!. Its begins again and this time it is aiming for me. The vase above me breaks. A bullet enters the wall a foot or so above my head. I get closer to the wall. Scratched radio messages and shouting “C’est la ba. C’est la ba.” Move over there. The bullets aren’t stopping. The building shakes as French troops continue their attack on our intruders. Leaving everything but the Panasonic behind, Gabriel and I quickly crawl through the lounge, past the bar and into the dining room. Go. Go. Go. Into the kitchen.

My eyes adjust to the light as we weave through; I begin to see the faces of those who have been camped out with us most of the day. The shooting doesn’t cease for another good ten minutes. I breathe. In and out. In and out.

I am feel relatively calm huddled in the corner of the kitchen leaning against the cool tile walls. French military weave back and forth resituating the machine gun in front of the lounge.

You never know how you are going to react until you are in it. I have often thought about this. My reaction was quite simple. Breathe. “F#*-!” Breathe. Okay. Go. Wait. Avoid the glass. Breathe. Go. Wait. Ahhhhh, calmness. Breathe.

As I write this, screams come in over the radio and dusk is falling on N’Djamena. The French escort people to their rooms to retrieve their papers and luggage. We have been asked if we want to evacuate. And we said yes, as most others in this room have said.

Gabriel returns from the grounds to use our satellite phone. News reaches me that Teresa contacted the embassy and the embassy stated that we refused to leave when they came to get us. My relative calmness turns to annoyance and then anger. F*!#ers. What liars. Nobody but the MINUCAT head located here in the hotel has asked us, and that was less than 30 minutes ago. Liars. Teresa will call again. Dusk falls over N’Djamena and no certain word on a flight home.

Our team is safe: Josh, Jeremiah, Gabriel and myself. No one in the hotel has been hurt. We wait.

Salaam, KTJ

Katie-Jay keeps i-ACT running on several levels. Much of her work entails coordinating partnerships with other grassroots organizations and implementing the campaigns developed by Gabriel and seeing through the details. She graduated from Portland State University with a BA in Sociology and a focus on Community Development. She has previously worked as a community organizer in Thailand, Guatemala, and with grassroots organizations across the United States.

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13 Responses to “Latest from KTJ”
  1. Dan McDonald says:

    KTJ,
    Keep your head down. It sounds very scary – we are praying for you and Gabriel and the people with you. We hope things calm down enough so that you can be evacuated soon. We read the BBC interview with you. Kendy had a nice talk with Barbara and she is doing fine – although worried about you. Take care.
    Love,
    Dan, Kendy, and Irem

  2. Robert Hadley says:

    KTJ, Gabriel and gang,

    WOW…is all I can say. I can’t say shocked because the region has a history of uprisings and revolutions. I woke up today to typical Oregon rain (snow mixed) worried about what we were going to do today…did we have plans for the big game tomorrow…was my lesson plan ready for Monday etc…then I read your latest posts and my heart just sank. I attempt to listen to the traditional news outlets in the USA and am left saddened by the incredible lack of coverage or even basic understanding of the situation.
    KTJ…your post regarding the embassy makes me absolutely furious! They have a duty to protect and defend American citizens in the country to the best of their ability. Clearly they fell down on that regard, but lying about it is beneath the pale!
    I am scrambling to find more information from good sources (of course you are my best source right now) CNN reports that the rebels are being pushed back by Govt. forces. Again…this is CNN so take that for all its worth:)
    If I find something good…I will post it up here.
    Please keep safe and keep your heads low. DON’T take unnecessary risks for our benefit…just get out safe!
    Rob Hadley

  3. Brenda Hodges says:

    We love you and are praying for your and everyone’s safe return. Please, please, be safe and stay close to each other. Love, Brenda and Matt

    PS. If there is anything we can do from here, let us know.

  4. Kim says:

    KTJ and the crew –

    The Portland family is all aware of the situation there and Jimmy Hayes, Terri and Ken, Kristen and Eric and everyone send their love. I know you’ll do what’s needed to stay safe.

    Let us know if there’s anything we can do for you.

    Love,
    Rich, Kim and Dylan

  5. Mimi Schiff says:

    Dear KTJ.
    I have been following you and Gabriel and the team. You are in my prayers. What can anyone tell you in this situation. I am furious that the UN said you did not want to leave, did they think that they were talking to children, or that no one knows of the situation there? Please keep as safe as you can and keep breathing. You journals and insights are fantastic. Again I pray and keep you in my heart for a speedy safe return.

  6. shiroma says:

    KTJ-
    I just want you to know again how proud I am of you and that I want nothing more that your safe return. I don’t know how to express how much you guys are on my mind. I am praying for you and you safety. Everyone who I talk to is praying for you as well. Please stay safe!
    I love you!
    Kristin

  7. Lisa Goldner says:

    KTJ, I hope you’re still breathing well, and not hyperventilating after all you’ve faced in this hotel skirmish. Let your emotions fly . . . they’re expected and understood. You can deal with the outrageous (detrimental) support you got from the embassy once you reach safe haven. What a news (NOISE) piece that might be! Seems many have contacts that should help secure you a flight out of there. We know this waiting period is probably the worst you’ve ever had to face. We are there in spirit, though I’m sure you’d prefer some real time hugs. Coming soon . . . ! Breathe deeply, and rest if you can.

    Peace and prayers,

    Lisa

  8. Isaac Murphy says:

    Hang in there Cuz.
    Seeing safe return for you and the crew,
    Isaac

  9. Maureen says:

    Prayers, prayers and more prayers for your safety and thanks for your selflessness.

    T’s mom

  10. Carlos says:

    Dan & Kendy told Rebecca & me about what is happening. Holy s#@^! I am glad it has now calmed down a bit where you are. I posted a comment on your Willamette Week on-line article to come to this site for info about what is now happening. Stay safe. We love you.

  11. Barbara Scott says:

    Dear Katie-Jay and those with you.
    I check the site every few hours and feel your situation. It video is amazing, it takes us right there.. Kathleen keeps me posted and I know God is everywhere. Stay as safe as you can. Everywhere I have gone today I have asked for prayers for your safety, and my friends have prayed. I am so glad you got such good pictures of all those precious people in the camps but I pray for your safety and return. Love you forever. Grammie

  12. Cristie Scott says:

    Hang in there KTJ!

    Thinking of you every second and sending you positive thoughts. Hum some Sam Bush or Yonder if you get too nervous!

    Love ya Cuz :)

  13. Tracy Bair says:

    KTJ, I’m watching the evening news and they said “coming up at 11, we’re working on a story of an aid worker trapped in Chad” and on the screen was your picture! And I’m shouting to my family “that’s Katie-Jay! I’m saying a prayer that you get out of there safely and that no harm comes to my former cubicle mate at IHAD. It sounds like your breathing techniques from yogo are coming in handy. Keep Safe, Tracy (Bair) xo

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