It's hard for many people to wrap their heads around the horror that unfolded at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi , but the tragedy is all too real for one Minnesota woman whose nieces were injured in the terrorist attack.
"My thoughts are disturbed. I can't think straight because I keep seeing my nieces' pictures flying in my head," Hodan Hassan admitted.
Hassan told FOX 9 News she learned about the attack on Saturday morning after her mother saw it on the news. Her sister's family lives near the mall, and within minutes, the family's worst fears were realized as they learned Hassan's teenaged nieces were among the injured.
"My family and I are really struggling. It's a difficult time," Hassan said. "We are hoping and praying everything will be OK."
Hassan said 17-year-old Fardosa Abdi and her 16-year-old sister, Dheeman, were caught in the middle of the massacre.
"I'm still in shock and hoping this is a nightmare and that they are fine," Hassan admitted.
The two teens were grocery shopping at the supermarket in the mall when about a dozen gunmen believed linked to the terrorist group al-Shabaab came in and opened fire. Hassan said Fardosa Abdi was badly injured in one of the explosions. Dheeman was shot in the leg and hit in the arm by shrapnel, but she was able to talk to Hassan by phone from the hospital.
"I just said, 'Are you ok? I love you. Everything is going to be okay. We are praying for you. Your family is here,'" Hassan recalled.
Now, Hassan hopes doctors can help Fardosa, who hoped to become a doctor herself one day, pull through.
Hassan explained that her nieces are Canadian citizens who moved to Nairobi a couple of years ago with their mother and father; however, the two spent this past summer in Minnesota visiting colleges and tourist attractions like the Mall of America. In fact, Hassan just dropped them off for their flight back to Kenya at the end of August.
When speaking with her niece by phone, Hassan did not ask what happened in the mall because she said she was more concerned that both of the teens recover; however, she also added that reports the attackers spared Muslims are untrue, pointing to her wounded loved ones as proof.
"Tragedy has no borders. Tragedy has no religion; it has no identity," Hassan said. "The monsters who are doing this aren't doing this for religion. They are doing this because they are maniacs."
Kenyan officials made a final push on Monday to rescue the last remaining hostages after an attack that left at least 62 dead and 60 others missing. Police insist they are in control of the situation and that the hostages are safe, but the building hasn't been cleared and the standoff seems to be ongoing.
Authorities say three attackers were killed on Monday, and more than 10 suspects have been arrested.