"I stopped to respond to a text message that I had gotten from a friend and I think that’s basically what saved me from being hit," she said

By Stephanie Petit
December 20, 2016 10:19 AM
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An American woman was just 20 feet away from the truck that plowed into a crowd at a busy Christmas market in Berlin Monday evening, killing 12 and injuring 48 others.

Shandana Durrani, who recently relocated to Berlin for her job as a travel and lifestyle journalist, told Good Morning America on Tuesday she first thought it was a horrible accident — and not what German Chancellor Angela Merkel would later declare a likely terrorist attack.

“I just thought that somebody had lost control of a truck and, you know, hit the curb and went over the curb,” she said. “It happened so fast. It felt like slow-motion but I think it was like 10, 15 seconds of it. I didn’t immediately think terror attack.”

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She added that as a Muslim-American, the thought of another terror attack “just makes me nauseous.”

Durrani said that she was leaving the market when she paused to check a text message.

“I stopped to respond to a text message that I had gotten from a friend and I think that’s basically what saved me from being hit, because as I looked up, this truck was barreling through the market and through the stalls and through the crowd coming almost at me,” she said.

She described running away from the scene and hiding behind a stall.

“I didn’t know if there was a gun, I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I heard a few pops, and myself and a few other people hid behind a stall until we thought the coast was clear.”

When the survivors emerged, Durrani said she saw bodies on the ground and left the scene so first responders could work.

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In a brief statement Tuesday, Merkel said, according to the New York Times, “This is a difficult day. I am, like millions of people during these hours, horrified and shocked by what happened at the Breitscheidplatz in Berlin.”

“We must assume at the current time that it was a terrorist attack,” Merkel added.

According to the Times, a suspect possibly involved in the attack is in custody. Authorities said the suspect entered Germany and registered as an applicant for asylum last year, but his application had not been processed, due in part to missed court appearances.

However, Berlin Police President Klaus Kandt has told reporters that officials “haven’t been able to confirm” that they’ve got the right suspect, according to the Associated Press.

Kandt asked the public to “stay alert” because authorities are “uncertain” if the detained suspect is the attacker, and that it’s possible the actual attacker is at large, the Washington Post reports.