National Press Club

Kenyan Discusses Village Reaction to 9/11

September 28, 2009 | By Peter Hickman |

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Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, a molecular biologist, Maasai warrior from Kenya and incoming Rotary International World Peace Fellow, told a Sept. 25 Newsmaker that his village's reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks was to symbolically donate 14 cows -- sacred symbols of life and healing to the Maasa -- to the American people.

The villagers continue to care for the herd as a living symbol of peace, Naiyomah said. As "sacred, healing cows," he added, they can never be slaughtered and remain in the care of village elders. The original 14 have calved, he said, and the herd now numbers 35.

"They continue to be a symbol of hope from the Maasai to their brothers and sisters in America," Naiyomah said, adding that "the Maasai wish is that every time Americans hear this simple story of 14 cows, they will find a measure of comfort and peace."

This resulted in Naiyomah collaborating with author Carmen Agra Deedy on a children's book, "14 Cows for America," which he discussed at the Newsmaker. He said the entire event caused him to refocus his professional plans and instead of going to medical school, he will embark on a career as a peacemaker when he begins postgraduate work at the Rotary Center for International Studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, in early 2010.