American mother reunited with Kenyan hero who saved family

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An American mom and her three daughters who were rescued from the Kenya mall massacre reunited with the local hero who risked his life to get them out.

Katherine Walton’s 4-year-old daughter, Portia, appeared in one of the iconic photos from the Nairobi mall massacre, scampering across a corridor into Abdul Haji’s outstretched arms.

Portia Walton, 4,  runs to Abdul Haji’s outstretched hand during the Kenya mall siege on Sept. 21. The little girl’s mother and siblings can be seen hiding beneath a table behind her

Portia Walton, 4, runs to Abdul Haji’s outstretched hand during the Kenya mall siege on Sept. 21. The little girl’s mother and siblings can be seen hiding beneath a table behind her

 

Walton, 38, her husband Philip, 39, and their five children — all of whom escaped the Sept. 21 terror attack — got a chance to thank Haji for his heroism during a joyous meet up in Nairobi on Sunday, NBC’s “Today” reported.

“Abdul Haji and a group of just regular men with some plainclothes police officers, they risked their lives and came in and rescued us,” Katherine Walton said on the show Monday.

“And it wasn’t just me – they went through the mall, floor by floor, shop by shop, and got so many people out of the mall.

“We got to meet him last night, and it was such a wonderful reunion,” she said.

Katherine Walton and Abdul Haji reunite a week after Haji helped Walton and her three daughters escape the Nairobi mall massacre

Katherine Walton and Abdul Haji reunite a week after Haji helped Walton and her three daughters escape the Nairobi mall massacre

Haji, whose father is a former Kenya security minister, rushed to the Westgate Mall in the city’s Westlands neighborhood after getting a text from his brother that it was under attack.

Armed with a pistol, he exchanged gunfire with the Al Qaeda-linked terrorists before encountering Walton and her three daughters huddled beneath a table.

Describing her daughter’s reaction when the shooting broke out, Katherine told “Today,” “They cried initially, just at the very beginning, and then after that they got very quiet.”

“They laid very still, almost like they went to sleep the entire time. It wasn’t until they threw the tear gas in that they kind of perked up a little bit and started complaining about the smell,” she said.

'[Haji and some others] risked their lives and came in and rescued us,' Walton, 38, told the NBC's 'Today' show Monday

‘[Haji and some others] risked their lives and came in and rescued us,’ Walton, 38, told the NBC’s ‘Today’ show Monday

After Portia’s daring dash, Katherine and the two other children, along with an unidentified Indian woman hiding with them, sprinted to safety with Haji’s help.

Her two teenage sons, who separated from their mom when the shooting started, hid in another part of the mall and also managed to escape.

The family was trapped inside for four hours.

Katherine Walton, left, and her two other children scramble for safety along with an Indian woman who had been hiding with them. Walton, an American living in Kenya, had been shopping at the mall with her three daughter and two teenage sons when the gunmen took over

Katherine Walton, left, and her two other children scramble for safety along with an Indian woman who had been hiding with them. Walton, an American living in Kenya, had been shopping at the mall with her three daughter and two teenage sons when the gunmen took over

As soon as I got out, my pastor was there to greet me, and he was able to tell me that my boys were out,” Walton told “Today.”

“My husband’s business partner was there as well, and they scooped us all up and took us to a friend’s house, and we were able to be reunited there with my boys.”

Philip and Katherine Walton and their five children. All five kids were in the mall when the attack started

Philip and Katherine Walton and their five children. All five kids were in the mall when the attack started

More than a week later, investigators were still digging through the rubble at the mall, and more than three dozen people remained missing, according to the Kenyan Red Cross.

The government has contradicted that number, saying there were no remaining people missing.

At least 61 civilians and six security troops were killed in the attack.

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