Westgate Rescuer Abdul Haji Reunites With 4-Year-Old American He Helped Save
Kenyan businessman Abdul Haji spent hours shepherding people to safety at Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, while terrorists laid siege Sept. 21. Haji recently went to the Walton home to meet with 4-year-old Portia Walton whom he helped save.
He recalled in an interview with the Telegraph filmed during the reunion how brave Portia was. She had been hiding on the ground floor with her mother, Katherine Walton, 38, and her two younger sisters for four hours. He asked her to run out from her hiding place to him so he could take her out of the mall. She bravely did so, encouraging them all.
A photo of her running to him has been widely circulated.
“This just gave us more motivation to go on and do what we were doing. It just gave us encouragement, basically,” he said. “Finally to meet the brave little girl, it’s very touching.”
“To think that I actually helped, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “It’s uplifting.”
A Muslim of ethnic Somali origin, Haji has been hailed a hero for helping so many escape the armed members of Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabab. He went to the mall armed to find his brother, but stayed to help others.
Walton said during her meeting with Haji, “It was such a relief to know that someone was there to get us out.”
She had earlier described the ordeal to the Associated Press.
Walton had taken her three daughters and two sons to the mall for some fun in the toy store and for a children’s cooking event. She has lived many years in West Africa with her husband, Phillip, and has lived for two years in Kenya. Phillip is an IT worker in Nairobi; he was out of town during the attack. The family lived in San Antonio, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C., before moving to Africa.
The two boys were inside the Nakumatt store when the attack began. Walton and the three girls were outside the store, and hid low near a table. Bullets whizzed overhead. Walton said the terrorists saw them. She locked eyes briefly with one of them, but he moved on. Her 13-month-old would cry and yell when the guns fired, drawing attention to the family.
“I don’t know how they couldn’t have heard,” she said. “My 13-month-old, every time the bullets started going, she screamed and screamed and screamed, and the sound echoed and echoed and echoed.” Two women hiding with them “were saying, ‘Make her be quiet.’”
Although the family was hiding in plain sight, so to speak, they weren’t targeted and all escaped with the help of Haji.