While the 9/11 attacks were carried out within the boundaries of the United States, the impact of the event touched every corner of the world. Victims represent over 90 nations, and the attacks are estimated to have been witnessed in real time by one third of the world’s population via television and radio.
But for some remote communities, news of the attacks travelled slowly, often carried by witnesses. The true account of one such witness, a young man named Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah (quote at left), forms the basis of the children’s book 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy. In 2001, Kimeli, a Maasai student from a remote village in Kenya, was attending university in California. He witnessed the attacks on the World Trade Center while visiting New York. When he returned home to his village months later, he was the first to share the story with his community. Deeply moved by Kimeli’s account of the attacks, an elder posed a simple question: “What can we do for these poor people?”
In response, Kimeli decided to offer the United States an extremely personal gift borne from deep compassion: a cow. In Maasai culture, cows are sacred symbols; as Kimeli explains, “To the Maasai, the cow is life.” Inspired by Kimeli’s generosity, the other members of his tribe came together to offer a total of 14 cows to the people of America, gifting them to a visiting ambassador in a special ceremony.