As my wife and I were leaving India last week, gunfire broke out in the New Delhi airport. Luckily, by that time, we were 40,000 feet in the air.
Janet and I were on a speaking tour in India when the terrorist attacks hit Mumbai where life virtually ground to a halt, just as it did in the United States after September 11, 2001. Most terror events hit suddenly and end just as suddenly in India; this last one in Mumbai dragged on for 60 hours.
Every other night, we stayed in a tourist-style hotel, the very kind targeted by terrorists in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). But when we arrived in Mumbai, we stayed with a local doctor who runs a large hospital for the poor and an AIDS hospital.
Every day, the Indian papers recounted stories of the ongoing drama. A well-known female journalist text-messaged a half-page article about being held hostage in her hotel room, describing the gunshots and grenade blasts from battles fought in hotel corridors, and the smoke licking under the doors. Her last message was, "Terrorist is in the bathroom, I'm under the bed. …" Commandos found her body there hours later.
A Muslim couple heard a noise that sounded like firecrackers. They went to the window overlooking a popular café and were killed in a hail of bullets as their young son watched.
Rumors spread like weeds of scores of bodies floating in the hotel swimming pool, of explosives set to destroy entire buildings.
Just as in 9/11, tales of luck and heroism also surfaced. The manager of the Taj Mahal Palace and Hotel was helping hide guests in a basement food locker even as his wife and two children burned to death in their executive suite several floors above. The Indian nanny caring for the two-year-old son of a rabbi smuggled him out ...