- For Andrew Lucheli, who was shot near the pelvic area while hiding under a table, a banging sound still sends his alarms off.
- He was 24-years-old at the time. He is lucky to live today as people who hid under the table with him all died.
“I started saying the last prayer [and] in the middle of it, I said no, I’m not dying today. I told God if I come today, my children will suffer,” a choking Valentine Kadzo recounted.
She had been part of the people marooned at the Westgate mall when four Islamist gunmen attacked the facility 10 years ago, September 21.
She was manning a marketing stand that day at midday when suddenly, she heard a big bang and a large group of people started running for safety.
Before long, it was an all out shooting by the masked men.
She was right in the line of fire.
She said in an interview with BBC that part of the crowd that was scampering for safety was a mother who had three children.
She offered them space under her stand and joined them, holding on to hope that it would shield them from the free-flying bullets.
But she was only safe for so long. Next thing she knew, there was a hole through her jeans at her hip.
“I saw a hole through my jeans and realised I had been shot,” she said.
The oozing blood from the wound, the melee that prevailed and no hope for their rescue made her resign to fate of death.
It is time to say the last prayer, I’m soon making contact with my maker, she thought to herself.
This is the moment she started making the final prayers, but her will to live springing from within and for her children, she turned the corner, refusing to throw in the towel.
Kadzo’s hope bore fruit as she got rescued later and was taken to hospital. She got discharged three days later.
Ten years on, though scars of bullet wound remains, emotional ones run even deeper.
She says she is yet to heal from the trauma of tittering on the brink of death, and that whenever she is in a mall her instinct pushes her to first look for a place of hiding, just in case.
“In a mall or an closed space, I have to look for a hiding before I can concentrate. It will never be the same again.”
Shamim Alu, a radio presenter, was also in the facility that day.
She was attending a children's cooking competition at the rooftop that was buzzing with life.
“It was like any other day, that was the sad part. Nothing [ever] prepares you in life for what you are about to witness,” she said.
“It was a happy event, children cooking, it was a competition and a lot of people milling around.”
At around noon, they heard gunshots.
Shamim says that in the midst of all the pandemonium, “there was a little boy, who looked terrified because obviously, bangs were coming up closer and closer.”
“I grabbed his hand and said stay with me, and the next thing I knew, I heard a banging sound.”
She put her hand on her back and noted there was a big hole on top of her arm as well.
“And I thought, oh my God I have been shot.” She had taken five shots.
Ten years on, she says “I still remember the temperature and the smell, so clearly.”
“It was acrid and a smell of blood. There’s nothing that prepares you for that. It was just mayhem,” she said.
The little boy was also shot and died in her arms.
So, blooding letting from five gunshot wounds and a dead boy in her arms, how did she make it?
“I turned my focus up on the trees because trees lie behind Westgate. If I look at the trees and concentrate on them, I would be able to take strength from trees and wait for help to arrive,” she said during the interview.
Grenade shrapnel still strapped in her back remains among the scars she is dealing with.
For Andrew Lucheli, who was shot near the pelvic area while hiding under a table, a banging sound still sends his alarms off.
He was 24-years-old at the time. He is lucky to live today as people who hid under the table with him all died.
A total of 71 people died from the attack, including the four assailants. Upwards of 200 people got injured.