ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. (WAVY) - A local woman who escaped the hostage siege in a Kenya mall is safely back in the U.S. Tuesday.
Bendita Malakia and her parents were reunited Tuesday afternoon at Washington Dulles International Airport.
Malakia'smother confirmed to 10 On Your Side Monday that Bendita was able to get a temporary passport to return. She left all of her identification, money and cell phone when she escaped the mall on Saturday.
Gunmen stormed the Westgate Mall in Nairobi Saturday, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 150 others. The U.S. State Department said they have reports of several injured Americans.
A militant Islamic group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Malakia, a 30-year-old from Elizabeth City, N.C. described the terror via Skype.
“We stood up and started to turn, and we heard machine guns. Then, we started to run and there was a second explosion, which knocked us on the ground,” said Malakia.
Malakia moved to Nairobi, Kenya in July to work with a financial company. On Saturday, she went to the Westgate Mall to have lunch with a friend at a cafe when gunmen stormed in.
Malakia and her friend made it inside a store where dozens of people were hiding, hoping the gunshots wouldn't come their way. She said the store manager pulled down gates to block anyone else from coming into the store.
"While we were back there you could hear them methodically going from store to store, talking to people, and asking questions," said Malakia. "They were shooting, screaming. Then it would stop for a while and they would go to another store."
After more than four hours, Malakia and the others were rescued by American security forces and Kenyan army officials.
"We were about to walk up the street to the car we heard two bombs and that's when we had our freak out cry moment in the street," said Malakia. "We jumped into an empty ambulance."
Malakia said the loud noises were tear gas canisters.
Once Malakia made it to safety, she contacted her mother via Skype. Malakia's mother, Lue Malakia, told 10 On Your Side she was terrified to hear what her daughter went through.
"She said she could hear the shooting, she could hear people that were shot, and they were hurting," Lue Malakia said. "She was hurting."
Malakia said she won't let herself feel the pain, or the terror she went through, only gratitude that she survived.
"It was completely luck, because we were on the ground floor," said Malakia. We were easily accessible. We did a lot of praying and we stayed calm."
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