26-year-old Elaine Dang, the San Diego woman caught in a Kenyan mall during a terrorist attack, shares her story of survival. Here’s NBC 7’s Rory Devine
For the first time on local TV, we’re hearing from a San Diego woman injured during a terrorist attack inside a mall in Kenya.
26-year-old Elaine Dang had been living and working in Nairobi a little more than a year when the attack happened in September.
The Torrey Pines High School graduate said she was judging a children’s cooking contest on the mall rooftop when she started hearing screams and faraway booms.
What followed, Dang describes, was complete chaos.
“I knew something really bad was happening,” Dang said. “I unzipped my bag to grab my phone. I was actually planning on calling my sister to tell her I love her and then just hang up the phone.”
At first, Dang said she hid under kitchen counters. When a gunman fired at a nearby gas canister, blowing it up, she took the opportunity to run.
“Everything now turned to slow motion,” she said. “I remember it exploded. I remember seeing fire, and I remember looking to my left and seeing people scatter, so I thought this is a great time to run because they are distracted.”
A photographer captured an iconic photo of Dang, covered in blood, as she was escorted away from the mall.
“The moment this captures is the biggest feeling of relief I’ve ever felt,” she recalled.
Despite the horror she witnessed, Dang said she has no regrets about going to Kenya and still considers it her second home.
Dang was hit by shrapnel and has nerve damage in her leg. Her family has set up a fund to help pay for her recovery, as well as help Kenyan children and disaster victims.