Natalie Sanandaji of Great Neck is one of the survivors of the Oct. 7 Israeli music festival terrorist attack by Hamas. She shared her story Monday at a news conference. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp

Each decision Natalie Sanandaji made on the morning of Oct. 7 was fraught with peril.

The Great Neck woman had attended an Israeli music festival — one that would end abruptly when Hamas attacked, and ultimately left 260 attendees dead. Her survival that morning, she recalled, depended on what she would do in the minutes after the attack begun. 

Hide in a ditch or run? Get in the car or leave the festival by foot? Accept help from the good Samaritan who ultimately saved her life or reject a ride from the anonymous stranger?

"Every decision you made in that moment — every split-second decision — either saved your life or got you killed," Sanandaji said Monday in Mineola, where was recognized for her bravery by Nassau County officials. "And you had no idea of knowing which decision was the right decision."

Sanandaji, who was in Israel for a wedding, had joined several friends at the Supernova music festival. Shortly after dawn, she recalled, rockets from Gaza began thundering overhead. Most of Sanandaji's friends were unconcerned, all too familiar with the sounds of rockets fired between the Israeli Defense Force and Hamas.

But this time was different.

By the time nearly two dozens rockets were fired, security was urging attendees to evacuate to their cars. Even then, Sanandaji had no way of knowing that terrorists were on foot with guns.

"I went to the bathroom and I came back to the car. It didn't occur to me until a few days ago how much my life was at risk in that moment," she said. "A few days ago, I saw a video that had surfaced of the Hamas terrorists coming to those exact bathrooms moments after I was there and just shooting at every stall trying to kill anyone who might be hiding inside."

Sanandaji and her friends jumped into a car and began exiting the festival but security urged them to pull over to the side of the road and to start running.

And that's when she heard the first gunshots.

Passengers in vehicles were an easy target so Sanandaji and her friends began running for their lives.

At one point, she said, they considered hiding in a ditch but realized that would leave them without anywhere to hide. She later learned that the concertgoers hiding in the ditch were all murdered.

After four hours of running, the group stopped for shade under a tree when a man in a pickup truck drove toward them. Their first thought: the terrorists had found them and they were seconds from certain death.

"We kind of all just looked at each other and sat back down and accepted our fate," Sanandaji said, adding that she never got the driver's name or had the chance to thank him. "Luckily for us, it wasn't a terrorist. It was a man from the neighboring town … who left the security of his town and drove toward all of this chaos to save innocent lives."

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman said the "savagery" of Hamas' attack is shocking.

"The fact that kids were going to a rock concert — a peace concert of all things — is just unimaginable," Blakeman said. "It's unimaginable that people would intentionally shoot teenagers and 20-year-olds."

With Israel now on the precipice of a potential ground invasion of Gaza, Sanandaji said the fight should remain with Hamas and not with the Palestinian people.

"Killing innocent Israelis is not going to free Palestine," she said. "And killing other innocent people is not going to help any other person."

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