JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Nairobi is 8,000 miles and an ocean away from Tennessee, but the tragedy is hitting close to home.
East Tennessee State University student Judith Wangari's younger brother was in the mall when al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked killing 68 people.
Moses Kago, 25, told his sister he heard a blast go off.
"He's not sure if it's a grenade or there's some gas cylinders that are out there," said Wangari, retelling her brother's story. "They don't know if someone hit them and let them go off but they thought that there was a fire outside."
So everyone rushed out of the building, only to face a nightmare.
"Out of nowhere some people came towards everyone that was running outside and started shooting," Wangari told us. "They didn't care at all. They only cared at one point when they stopped and said 'if you're a Muslim you can leave now'."
Kago told his sister he ran back inside to the mall's control room where he worked as an engineer, she said.
He locked the steel door and watched the scene unfold on the 60 television screens in front of him, Wangari told us.
"He says he saw two of those terrorists people," Wangari said. "He saw them, he remembered their faces. He says 'I remember two of their faces because I saw them on screen'."
Kago and others in the room called police to tell them what they were seeing.
"He had never seen somebody shoot another person and he saw people shooting at each other," Wangari said. "He saw people running, he saw blood, he saw a lot of bad things."
Throughout all of it, seven hours behind in the United States, Wangari was sleeping.
She was "really, really terrified," Wangari said.
She had just left her apartment to go to ETSU to tutor when she called her dad in Kenya.
He told her that her brother was okay.
"It was overwhelming, really overwhelming," Wangari remembers. "I didn't know how I was going to get through it."
She called her brother next.
Kago was rescued, unhurt, after six hours as a hostage.
She still can't believe what's happening in Kenya, Wangari said.
"Just to think someone would want to hurt somebody like that, not knowing them, not knowing their story, is really bad," she said. "I see no excuse for what they did. No excuse."
Kenyan police began an assault Sunday evening to hopefully end the hostage crisis.
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