The sole survivor of a lightning strike near the White House earlier this month says she doesn’t know why she survived the attack, which killed three others.
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis had been working outside the White House on her 28th birthday when she took cover under a tree in Lafayette Square when it started to rain, she told Good Morning America in her first interview since the Aug. 4 incident.
Six bolts of lightning struck within half a second, killing a couple in their 70s, James and Donna Mueller, and 29-year-old Brooks Lambertson.
The group had been hiding under a tree across the street from the White House during a summer storm when a massive bolt of lightning struck the ground. Escudero-Kontostathis was left with burns covering her body after the strike.
“I don’t know why I survived,” she told GMA. “I don’t feel good about being the only survivor, that’s for sure. I’m grateful, but I just don’t feel good about being the only one.’
One theory she has is that her shoes may have played a role in how badly she was burned.
“They definitely didn’t save my life,” she said of the chunky rubber-soled Doc Marten sandals she’d been wearing. “I definitely think it contributed to potentially less burn.”
Still, the lightning struck right through her body, causing her to be rushed to hospital in critical condition. She remained in the hospital for several weeks, and was able to recover fairly quickly despite her severe injuries.
Despite this, her recovery has been a challenge both mentally and physically.
“I forget that I can’t just get up and do things. I have to use a walker, for example, she said.
“You wake up and think you can just get up and go brush your teeth or get yourself a cup of coffee, and I can’t, the whole left side is pretty charred,” Escudero-Kontostathis said.
Escudero-Kontostathis works as the director of Threshold Giving, a nonprofit that helps refugees, and had been working for the group at the time of the lightning strike. Being unable to work now, she says, has been frustrating.
“I get to help people find their inner activist and bridge them to the work they want to see in the world,” she said. “Not doing it every day is probably more painful than cleaning the burns, which is quite painful.”
The 28-year-old said that while she doesn’t remember much about being struck by lightning, she will always remember and be grateful for the care she received from the intensive care nurses who helped her recover.
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