TODAY   |  September 30, 2013

Mom in Kenya siege: I was separated from my boys

Katherine Walton, an American mother of five, was shopping at the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, when the four-day siege began there. Accompanied by her husband and children, she tells TODAY how her three young daughters endured their four-hour ordeal and how she reunited with her two sons after she escaped.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and we're back with new details on the deadly attack at a crowded shopping mall in nairobi kenya. more than a week later, new imagines reveal the aftermath of the four day siege. one of the most striking photos shows a 4-year-old american girl being rescued. she was at the mall with her mom catherine and her four other siblings. they're with us along with catherine 's husband phillip. good morning to all of you.

>> good morning.

>> catherine , i want to start with you. i was reading about your experience last night and what struck me, what jumped out at me is the fact that you were at the mall with five children yet you were separated from two children. you had your three girl with you. your two sons were in another part of the mall. that had to add a layer of horror to the experience.

>> it was pretty stressful but i didn't realize it. i thought my boys were already to get out but they weren't. it wasn't until after i was rescued that i realized they had been in there the entire time with me.

>> where exactly were you catherine when the shooting started? were you in the open or in a store? describe your surroundings.

>> i was standing out in front of the store and i was going to wait for my boys there and when the shooting broke out i ran and dove behind the little advertisement booth that they had there in front of the store.

>> and you waiting there -- by the way, you were in the mall for four hours. our girls were very scared and upset. they were crying. so you also had to try and keep those girls calm.

>> you know, they cried initially, just at the very beginning and then after that they got very quite and they laid very still and they almost like they went to sleep the entire time and it wasn't until they threw the tear gas in that they perked up a little bit and started complaining about the smell.

>> catherine , when did you finally get reunited with your sons?

>> when i got out, 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 and 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 reunite there had with my boys.

>> phillip, all this time you knew your family was in that mall, you were not in the mall. can you describe what you were going through emotionally knowing that this was unfolding?

>> no, i was traveling in the u.s. i was in north carolina in a hotel room . i was trying to follow news reports as they came in. i had a close friend that was keeping me updated via facebook and it was -- you just feel very helpless when you're 9,000 miles away and your entire family is going through something like this.

>> catherine , we always hear stories of people that run toward the danger, not away from it. of people that do their best to help out, total strangers, you had a situation like that, didn't you.

>> i sure did. abdul haji and a group of just regular men with some plain clothes police officers , they risked their lives. it wasn't just me. they went through the mall floor by floor and got so many people out of the mall.

>> you had a chance to thank him i understand?

>> i did. we got to meet him last night and it was such a wonderful reunion.

>> we're glad you're all safe and i want to thank you for taking the time to tell us your story this morning.

>> thank you.