'Forever grateful': Saved mall goers thank police
By Adam Schreck and Jason Straziuso, Kenya, APNAIROBI--As al-Qaida-linked terrorists threw grenades and fired automatic weapons, the three plainclothes Kenyan police officers, lightly armed and wearing no bulletproof vests, helmets or other protective gear, worked their way to the roof of Nairobi's Westgate Mall and led a group of frightened shoppers to safety.
September 30, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
“I will be forever grateful for those three brave and selfless Kenyans,” said Lyndsay Handler, an American who was among those rescued from the roof in the first hours of the siege that began Saturday. “Words cannot fully capture the depth of this gratitude, but anyone who has come close to losing a child or spouse can understand.”
Undercover police officers armed only with pistols and walkie-talkies like those who rescued Handler and her husband and 2-year-old daughter helped save countless lives in the initial minutes of the attack — heroics the New York native and others they brought to safety say have gotten too little attention.
Handler was in the shopping complex with her husband, Nick, and their 2-year-old, Julia. Father and daughter were at the popular eatery, Artcaffe, when about a dozen al-Shabab militants descended on the upscale mall popular with foreigners and wealthy Kenyans and began firing indiscriminately.
Lyndsay, upstairs at a bookstore, headed to the roof, while Nick took shelter with Julia in a ground-floor storeroom of the mall's flagship department store, Nakumatt.
Father and daughter huddled fearfully for three hours until plainclothes police came to their rescue.
“It's hard to describe the relief I felt when I saw the doors to the storeroom open, and several incredibly brave plainclothes police, weapons drawn, motioned for us to leave as quickly as possible,” said Nick Handler, of the Philadelphia suburb of Merion, Pennsylvania.
“Perhaps it was not rational, but I instantly trusted these guys with our lives. I felt a surge of hope that we were going to be fine.”