Knoxville native in Kenya says terror attack has been horrific

Knoxville native in Kenya says terror attack has been horrific

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Katherine Pearson Criss and her son Rand Pearson have been communicating via Skype since the attack in Libya. Katherine Pearson Criss and her son Rand Pearson have been communicating via Skype since the attack in Libya.
Rand Pearson has lived in Kenya for the last 12 years. "The scene has been horrific. It's like a war zone," he said. Rand Pearson has lived in Kenya for the last 12 years. "The scene has been horrific. It's like a war zone," he said.
"As a mother I think you want to say please just pack up and go on vacation, get out of town, but he's a grown man, professional journalist, and editor and publisher," said Pearson Criss. "As a mother I think you want to say please just pack up and go on vacation, get out of town, but he's a grown man, professional journalist, and editor and publisher," said Pearson Criss.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The multi-day attack at a Kenyan mall is now over, but the investigation  is really just beginning.

Kenyan authorities claimed Tuesday afternoon that they have fully reclaimed the shopping complex.     

Officials say at least 62 people have been killed since a terrorist group took over the building last weekend.     

Meanwhile, the FBI is deploying a team to Kenya to investigate allegations that some of the mall attackers are tied to the U.S.     

The state department maintains those claims are unconfirmed.

Several families in East Tennessee have close ties to that area.

Katharine Pearson Criss, of Knoxville, had lived in Kenya from 1997 to 2003.

For the past 12 years, her only son, Rand Pearson, has lived there with his wife and daughter.

The two have been communicating on Skype since the terror attack first happened.

"We live probably no more, I say, two to three miles from Westgate Mall in a community called Spring Valley," said Rand Pearson via Skype. "It's so close to us we frequent Westgate Mall on weekends a lot." 

Pearson says the terrorist attack there reminds him of 9/11, and it has been surreal being in the middle of it.

"The scene has been horrific," said Pearson. "It's like a war zone. For the longest period of time we could see a plume of black smoke rising out of Westgate Mall from our house."

It has been hard for his mother being so far away.

"As a mother I think you want to say please just pack up and go on vacation, get out of town, but he's a grown man, professional journalist, and editor and publisher," said Pearson Criss.

Pearson Criss recently took a trip Kenya to visit her son and had lunch at Westgate Mall.

"One never knows the hand of fate," said Pearson Criss, "Why then, why now."    

Both mother and son say they hope this attack will not change this country.

"I think right now, the best we can do, is come together as a community, a Kenyan community," said Pearson, "Come together and show a united front, that's how we get through it."

Rand Pearson says the people of Kenya have really come together. He says many people there, including himself, have given blood.     

Pearson Criss says this attack will not keep her from going back to visit her son.

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