NC Couple: We Escaped Kenya Mall

Asheville travelers guided out by gun-wielding Australian
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2013 4:05 AM CDT
Updated Sep 26, 2013 6:33 AM CDT
NC Couple: We Escaped Kenya Mall
Soldiers from the Kenyan Defense Forces gather at the entrance to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

(Newser) – In Kenya for a safari, an Asheville, NC, couple took a daytrip to a Nairobi mall—and ended up fleeing for their lives. Francis and Susan Strazzella, both 62, heard shots ring out as they browsed a store on the mall's fourth floor, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports. "We knew the shooting was in the building, but I couldn’t tell how far away it was," says Francis. The couple realized that hiding in the store would leave them trapped, so they joined other shoppers on a deck. A terrorist emerged, hurled a grenade, and shot several people.

The couple took shelter under a vehicle: "We laid there for an hour, waiting for the police who never came," Francis says. But someone did approach: an Australian-accented man who knew how to handle a gun. Taking charge, he led them through a cafe's kitchen and pointed the way out. "Then he got a weapon from another guy and said, 'I’ll hold them off. You get them out.'" The staff at the Strazzellas' hotel gave them an emotional welcome and washed their clothes. "There is true evil. I saw the devil," says Francis. "But there’s also a tremendous amount of good in the world. We were taken in by total strangers and taken care of." (Read more Francis Strazzella stories.)

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