Dateline   |  November 22, 2013

'Nowhere to Hide' part 1

Two families are trapped when gunmen attack the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi Kenya.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: it's the modern day town square , a gathering place that fulfills our everneed. shopping, eating, socializing. a trip to the mall is an escape on weekends. and not just in america, in nairobi, kenya , the upscale, modern westgate mall was the place to unwind at the end of the workweek. it was the last place you would expect something like this. [ gunfire ] gunshots, explosions, armed men taking over every floor methodically shooting any one in their way. that was the unbelievably brutal scene that played out in front of a shocked world on september 21st . just after the smoke cleared, dateline traveled to nairobi. tonight, we'll fact you inside the mall attack. with never before seen pictures of how it unfolded, and new details fr those who lived through it. you will hear from two mothers caught in the cross fire .

>> it was pretty terrifying, it really was. it was very, very, fearful.

>> reporter: two mothers caught on camera.

>> what is going to happen? i am going to die. the kids are going to die.

>> reporter: in a matter of second the moms, an american and a kenyan, would go from strolling through the mall, to being forced to make life and death decisions to save themselves and their children. for katherine walton it began like any other saturday. with her husband phillip away on business, she took their five kids to the westgate mall . it was a place where all of them could be entertained, the teens and the toddlers. her kids liked the chicken place, the candy store .

>> just an opportunity to walk around kill a couple hours. i knew we would go home have naps. everybody would be happy.

>> reporter: the waltons close to move to kenya from texas. for katherine and phillip like going home . they were both children of missionaries and grew up in countries in west africa . they met in boarding school in africa, married in the states, and started raising their family. blez was born 14 years ago, then ian, 10, porsche, 4, gigi, 2. and petra, the baby, 13 months old was born in kenya . their morning at the mall unfolded just as any family's might. they had lunch together in the third floor food court . after lunch, the boys decided to race down to the first floor to a big department store . sort of like a super wal-mart, called nakumart, mom and the girls were finishing up lunch so they lagged behind. as they were walking through the mall to catch up with the boys, with the baby in a sling and the two tolers holding mom's hands, it happened. an explosion. the first thing that tells you something is wrong, a huge bang. coming from where?

>> it was the main entrance. it was off to my right. and behind me. everyone was turning around and looking at it. and just seeing people screaming and running.

>> reporter: in the first second, katherine was unsure what was happening. she thought it sounded like broken glass or something falling. but she immediately grasped she and her girls were in danger. the chaos confused another mother, not far from katherine on the main floor. faith wambua was in the mall with her two children, 9-year-old daughter psy, and 21-month-old son, thai, the agricultural researcher was shopping for an anniversary present for her husband. she was in a flower shop when she first heard the noise.

>> it was so loud i actually thought it must have been an earth quake and the building was collapsing. so that's the point when i just told my kids to lie down, of course, i am scanning the area wondering where we are going to go.

>> reporter: scenes captured on security cameras in the mall show how quickly the attack began. you can see machine gun bullets flashing down the main concourse as shoppers frantically scramble and dive to the floor.

>> and then i saw tracer round starting to hit the shops that were straight ahead.

>> reporter: katherine 's first thought protect her kids.

>> it was, you know, just instinct to grab the girls and run. but we must not have gone very far, a kenyan woman, came, scooped up porsche, and, and we bothan, right behind this, this display table, display cabinet. katherine , her girls and the kenyan woman took cover the only place th could, here they are. crouching under a flimsy temporary display table.

>> petra was crying. i was laying on her. it was loud. it was very loud. very chaotic.

>> reporter: what was happening around you? what are you hearing?

>> everybody was scrambling. the shooting was like coming from all directions.

>> reporter: katherine knew her boys had been headed towards the department store , the nakumart amid the noise and commotion, she managed to call them and yell out a quick warning.

>> i said don't come out, th're shooting. go, run, hide. do not come out. katherine knew the situation was dangerous, extremely dangerous , but at least she had some cover. faith wambua and her kids were also trapped on the ground floor , but cowering out in the open exposed to the gunman stalking new victims.

>> i am telling the kids lie down. now there is this ntinuous loudound. that's when, i knew they were shooting. then i thought -- uh-oh. wrong choice of hiding place . and i remember my daughter at one point asked me, mama was this the best place you could hide?

>> the assault continued.

>> you're not hearing just one gun. it was all over. it sounded all look it was all over. of course, in the building it was echoing and reverberating. you could look up and see other floors. where i was laying. i could see across and up, the different levels. you know? it was just chaos.

>> reporter: what's the smell like?

>> the whole mall was cloudy and just smoke everywhere. gunpowder. burning. smell.

>> reporter: did any of them come near you?

>> i saw two of them that walked from the main entrance in front of the line of stores that were directly in front of us.

>> reporter: hold on. what did you see? i mean you saw their feet go by?

>> o, i saw them, i saw two whole men. you know they were -- 50 yard, 30 yards away. i don't know.

>> reporter: what did they look like?

>> they had tan and gray clothing, and they were carrying very, very large weapons. very large guns.

>> reporter: hearing the gunfire and screams, echoing through the mall, both katherine and faith could tell the gunmen were spreading out killing people as they went along. two mothers trapped with young children worried they would be next, and a growing fear, seized katherine . her boys were no longer answering their phone. where were they?