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Kenya mall siege survivor says retelling ordeal helps to heal
20/09/2023 20:56 in National News

Ten years have passed since the Westgate shopping mall attack in the Kenyan capital, but Nairobi resident Lori Awat still remembers it like it happened yesterday.


She was at an upscale shopping mall on September 21, 2013, when Al-Shabaab extremists attacked her. She was 23 years old at the time and had just graduated.


Lori had gone to the bank to withdraw money for a rugby tournament she planned to watch with her two cousins.


She said it all happened in a split second.  "I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and saw  people running. I couldn't see my cousins ​​anymore."


Lori said she still remembers the desperate prayers of those around her during the four harrowing hours she had to hide under a table in the hallway.


“There was a shooter right in front of the bank, in front of the glass door. I didn't turn my head to look, but I could hear the shells falling. And that tells me that if you hear shells, the shooter is right there," she said.  Lori and her cousins ​​were among more than 1,000 people saved from the Westgate massacre.


She says her life has changed a lot since then, and she's started making more "living in the moment" choices, but talking about the siege has helped her heal.


"It affected my perception of the world because before, I was young—22, 23. Up until then, everything was nice and easy. A nice, normal middle-class life," she said. “But when something like this happens, I start to really look at things like war, things like death, and mass genocide. I started  thinking about these things—why  they happen and where  they happen.


The attack happened at noon on Saturday, when the shopping centre was packed with customers. Gunmen stormed the four-story building, firing machine guns and throwing grenades, causing people to flee in panic.


The siege lasted about 80 hours before security forces took control. Al-Shabaab said the attack was in retaliation for Nairobi's military intervention in Somalia. This was the second-deadliest attack in Kenya's history, behind only the Al Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998, which killed 213 people.

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