Downtown, wrecking balls are finishing the job started by a car bomb one year ago. Demolition crews level the shattered U.S. Embassy, the target of an attack allegedly carried out by Muslim terrorists waging a holy war against the United States.
But beyond the blackened concrete, less visible if more profound bomb damage remains. On the anniversary of "the bomb blast," as it is invariably called here, Kenyans need no reminders that bystanders were the principal victims of that war. The blast killed 12 Americans, but left 201 Kenyans dead. The nearly simultaneous explosion in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania, killed no Americans but 11 Tanzanians.
For Kenyans, many of the scars are unseen and much of the grief is unspoken. The anniversary will be noted today in Washington with a State Department ceremony and in Nairobi with an ambitious prayer program. But not everyone here wants to remember that gray, cold Aug. 7.
"When we see all that rubble on television, it will remind us of that day and will affect us emotionally. Our custom is to bury the dead and forget," said Samuel Hinga Mwangi, whose sister died in the explosion.
Mental health professionals have seen to the bomb's less visible damage. In the past year, they have canvassed offices a square mile around the blast site, briefing more than 12,000 people on the possible emotional fallout.
"We've gone to the literature of Oklahoma City and looked at Operation Heartland," said Frank Njenga, the psychiatrist who chairs Kenya's Operation Recovery. Njenga said that the blast that destroyed a federal office building in Oklahoma City and killed 168 people in 1995 was followed by increases in the rates of alcohol abuse, divorce and other indicators of long-term emotional disruption among the survivors. Seven times as many people were affected in Nairobi.
"In a very paradoxical, tragical, almost morbid way, we're learning from the experience of Oklahoma City before the experience comes to us," Njenga said.
Therapists report a steady business. "I've had four this morning," Njenga said Thursday. "And those are the people who have sufficient sophistication and the ability to pay my bill."
The patients included one woman trampled in the panic after the blast, who now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Another woman, who fell two stories, has so numbed her feelings that her husband has taken her coldness for evidence of infidelity.
A third patient wanted to know what to say when her 3-year-old asks, "If it's true Daddy went away to Jesus, why didn't he take his clothes?"
The counseling operation is funded -- at least until the end of August -- by a portion of the $37 million Congress approved for Kenya after the bombing. Tanzania -- where another bomb went off within minutes of the Nairobi blast, killing 11 -- received another $9 million. Most of the Kenyan money will cover the rebuilding of Nairobi offices, including the Cooperative Bank high-rise that shared the parking lot where the truck bomb was detonated.
Simon Kauisi was in a meeting on the fourth floor at the time. Plate glass tore his face so savagely that, when his wife arrived at the hospital, she did not recognize him. In the months afterward, Kauisi noticed that he was overeating and oversleeping. But he returned to work at the Kenya Teacher's Service Commission, even though his one remaining eye forbids him from reading as much as his job requires.
"It is something that I have accepted," he said of the scars that quilt his open, friendly features. "I am not bitter that my face has been disfigured. There are some of my colleagues who cannot look at themselves in the mirror."
Mwangi is not inclined to hold a grudge, either, even after the death of his sister.
Rose Mwangi worked on the ground floor of Ufundi House, the only building totally demolished by the bomb. Her name emerged from the wreckage before her body, as survivors and rescue workers passed on sketchy reports of a woman with that name whispering from near the center of the rubble.
For five days, the country kept a vigil for "Kenya's Rose," as a headline dubbed her. In the outpouring after her death, a stranger volunteered to pay her son James's school fees, about $230 a year. The gift was appreciated, but should have been unnecessary, Samuel Mwangi noted: The congressional funds specifically cover school fees for victims' children. But the money has not reached Mwangi's family, which struggles to pay for school for Diana, 9.
"We don't want to blame them," Mwangi said of the Americans. "We're not going to point fingers. This thing has happened."
In the hope that such a thing will not happen again, the Americans have responded by raising their guard.
At the temporary U.S. Embassy in Tanzania -- a forbidding walled compound of eight luxury villas, two of them vacant because they're too close to the wall -- a visitor passes through four gates and three metal detectors before reaching the ambassador's office, located "behind the hard line." While a guard jots down the license plate number of each vehicle in the outside parking lot, U.S. officials complete negotiations on perhaps the only piece of central Dar es Salaam real estate large enough to accommodate the 100-foot setback requirements of a permanent embassy: a drive-in movie theater.
"Given the security requirements that we've got, we need a rather significant footprint," said Ambassador Charles R. Stith. "Getting blown to smithereens has a way of being a tad disturbing."
In Nairobi, embassy employees still do business out of the high-rise to which they retreated the day after the bombing, the road in front of it now a slalom course of concrete roadblocks. While a permanent embassy is being built near a forest on the city's northern edge over the next four years, the embassy this year will move to an isolated compound overlooking a game park on the road to the international airport.