At around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2012, the four guards at the compound entrance—Nasser, Ubayd, Abdullah and Anwar–were casually eating sandwiches and talking about a recent soccer game, trying to pass the time on another monotonous night of watch duty. This one seemed no different from the others before: days and nights staring at the high walls that obscured the luxury villas in the posh Benghazi neighborhood where the American mission was located. But on this night, the silence of the secluded streets was dramatically shattered.

First, from beyond the walls, came the yells of “God is Great!” Nasser went out to investigate. “I immediately heard RPG explosions and saw a large group heading toward us up the road,” he said. Outnumbered and outgunned, the four abandoned their posts, with Nasser and Ubayd fleeing south to what was called the C villa in the center of the compound, a building that housed the office of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who was visiting from the Libyan capital Tripoli. Abdullah ran towards the cantina east of C villa where a grenade exploded nearby. “I remember the shrapnel that landed in my leg was very hot and I was shaken, a bit dizzy,” he recalled. A group of attackers then passed him on the way to encircling the cantina. They shot him twice in the leg. Others beat him so hard he lost consciousness. He awakened later in the Benghazi Medical Center.

As the guards from the front of the property desperately sought safe haven from the grenades and the kind of explosives used for blast fishing, attackers began a siege of the back entrance of the compound. “I heard them shout ‘God is Great!’ and then they started shooting,” said Mikhlaf, one of the guards in the rear gate. He darted toward the cantina where he saw Ambassador Stevens’ bodyguard running across the lawn towards the C villa. “He was a big black man with a machine gun,” Mikhlaf recounted. “He looked really angry.” As the Libyan guard arrived at the cantina, however, two Americans who had accompanied Stevens from Tripoli slammed the door on him.