Patch Editor Recalls the Day She Survived Al Qaeda Terrorist Attack

On the morning of November 28, 2002, Jerusalem Post reporter Kelly Hartog arrived at the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya to check in with a half-dozen other journalists, as part of a local safari travel junket assignment. If not for the actions of the group’s tour guide, she would not have remained alive, come to LA in 2004 and joined the ranks of Patch in the fall of 2010, first as local editor of Mar Vista Patch and, since last week, neighboring Culver City Patch.

“When we arrived at the hotel, there were lots of people in the lobby,” Hartog (pictured) recalls during a telephone interview with FishbowlLA. “Our tour guide suggested that we just leave our suitcases and walk, via a pathway, to a dining room across the way.”

“Ten minutes later, the guide said he was going back to the lobby to see how our check-in was proceeding,” she continues. “We all said that we would come with him, but he replied that there was no need. He left his 25-year-old daughter, who was with us, went back, and was killed moments later when the Al Qaeda explosives went off.”

Even to this day, after trauma counseling, Hartog says it’s hard for her to remember the exact details of the car-bomb explosion. There was an incredibly loud noise, then a moment of eery silence during which for example the chirping birds had all stopped. Followed instantly by smoke, fire, lots of falling ash and craziness. Luckily, she and the other junket participants were all OK.

The journalist in Hartog took over. The first call she made was not to her family but rather the Post newsroom. In the 24 hours, she fielded around 100 phone calls from various other media outlets, doing an interview with NPR and landing on the front page of the New York Times. With the country shut down, Hartog was eventually flown back to Israel on an air force jet.

After arriving in LA, Hartog continued to write for the Post for several years before joining the Beverly Hills Courier. Other employers prior to Patch have included London’s Daily Mail and the New York Post.

“Even though I worked in Israel for 11 years, at the end of the day my job was to cover city of Jerusalem,” Hartog, a London native who was raised in Sydney, Australia, explains. “I’m a community news junkie; I believe in journalism from the ground up.”

“I was very much boots-on-the-ground in Mar Vista and am looking forward to covering Culver City,” she adds. “Despite all the issues, problems and things the media complains about regarding Patch, it’s an incredible opportunity for a journalist. You can shape your own Patch and are not stuck in an office. It’s a great model.”