Nightly News   |  September 30, 2013

Mom of five describes escape from Kenya mall

In an NBC News exclusive, Ron Allen speaks with an American family that was trapped inside the mall in Kenya but made it out alive.

Share This:

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

>>> as promised we are back with an nbc exclusive. we hear from the american family that was trapped in the mall in kenya with gunmen around them. that includes a little girl rescued by a stranger. they are describing for the first time how they were able to make it out of there. their story tonight from nbc 's ron allen in nairobi .

>> reporter: the walton family is grateful for each day together. catherine and her five kids were rescued from the nairobi mall, including 4-year-old portia , a moment captured in this iconic image. dad philip was miles away in north carolina on business, as his family lived through a nightmare. how long were you trapped?

>> three and a half to four hours. it was terrifying.

>> reporter: catherine and the three girls had come down the main escalator. this escalator in ruins after the four-day siege.

>> there was a loud explosion, sounded like breaking glass . then people started screaming and running. then i grabbed the girls and started just running.

>> reporter: the two boys were trapped in the grocery store . here is that store after the siege. the most intense fighting happened here. these exclusive photos show the mall ravaged by gunfire, explosions and fire. after becoming a battle zone .

>> reporter: portia laid down flat as she could on her stomach, put her hands in her ears and laid there for hours motionless and quiet .

>> trying to stay alive.

>> reporter: local businessman b abdul haji came to the mall to help his brother. when he spotted the waltons he called to portia .

>> i held my hands out, asked her to run and she just ran towards us. at that point i thought she was very, very brave.

>> reporter: what do you say to her to convince her to go? we teach our kids not to go to strangers.

>> i think she knew it was a chance to get out.

>> reporter: you're a father of four yourself.

>> she's the same age at my daughter.

>> reporter: catherine and the girls got out and learned the boys had already escaped. haji and the waltons now share an intense bond.

>> love him to death. you know, when we met him for the first time after this started, i put my arms around him and started crying.

>> reporter: a family with a brave little girl and a stranger who came to the rescue. ron allen , nbc news, nairobi .