Sent: Thu Nov 27 02:26:51 2008
Subject: Hey! From a Mumbai massacre survivor.
Got all your notes. Thank you. I'm ok. A little shaky to be honest,
but really just happy to be here. I can't thank you enough for your
notes. You have no idea what they mean to me. Hope to see and speak
to you all soon.
I wrote the following on the plane:
It's 3.33 am Thursday Nov 27th. And I am writing this from Jet
Airways flight 0227, First leg of the Mumbai - Brussels - Toronto -
Vancouver journey. It is a stream of "adrenaline" piece. I
apologize in advance for the grammatical errors. But I wanted it
raw and unedited.
First, some context.
I have always been truly blessed. Lucky to be born to the most love
a child could ever wish for. Lucky to be born into a family that
prided itself on teaching me how to be a man. Lucky to have been
protected and sheltered by three strong, decent brothers. Lucky to
have found and married the kindest heart on the face of the earth.
Lucky to be blessed beyond blessed with four healthy, beautiful
children. Lucky to have wonderful friends who tolerate my
Tonight, these blessings, these gifts of love and life bestowed
upon me, this incredible good fortune, saved my life. And I
honestly don't know why.
I am in Mumbai on business. I'm staying at the Trident hotel. It's
sister hotel, the Oberoi, is right next-door and attached by a
I had dinner by myself in the Oberoi lobby after some late meetings.
I retired upstairs to my room. About 10 mins later my colleague,
Alex Chamerlin, text-ed asking me to join him and his friend in the
Oberoi lounge for a drink. I started to make my way out the door
that I was really too tired. I had a 7am flight, and needed to be
up at 5. Rest beckoned. I closed the light, got into bed and
quickly fell asleep. Lucky life-saving decision number 1.
About 1hr later there was knock at my door. A few seconds later,
the doorbell rang (they have doorbells for hotel rooms here -
who'da thunk?). I thought - who the hell is knocking at my door?
Turn down service? This late? Forget it. So I just lay there and
hoped they would go away. Lucky life-saving decision number 2.
Five minutes later I heard and felt a huge bang. I got up and went
to look out the window. A huge cloud of grey smoke billowed up from
the road below. I thought. Fireworks? I didn't see anyone milling
about so knew something wasn't right. I started to walk to the
light switch when - BANG - another huge explosion shook the entire
Oh ****, I thought. Is that what I think this is? I opened the door
to the hallway. A few people were already outside.
I heard the word "bomb".
Oh shit. Oh shit I thought.
I'd like to tell you that I calmly collected my myself and my
things and proceeded to the exits.
I didn't. An adrenaline explosion erupted inside me and almost
lifted me off the floor. And I began to move. Really move.
I went back inside, quickly packed my stuff and went back into the
I ran to the emergency exit and started making my way down the
stairs (I was on the 18th floor).
There were a few people in the stairwell. I was flying by them. I
swear I could have run a marathon in 2hrs. I felt like pure energy.
About halfway down, I called my friend Mark, told him what had
happened and asked him to get me a flight - any flight - the hell
out of Mumbai.
I got to the lobby level. There was a crowd of people in the
corridor. No one moving. No one doing anything. No hotel staff. No
Shit. I thought. We are sitting ducks.
I decided to get out of there. First, into the lobby.
I stepped through the door into the silent lobby. My first sight
was a blood-soaked plastic bag and bloody footsteps leading into
the reception area. I proceeded forward. The windows were shattered
and glass was everywhere. There wasn't a soul around.
Bad decision, I thought. I quickly retreated to the corridor. The
crowd of people had grown.
We've got to get out of here I yelled. Let's go.
I looked around for the emergency exit and started running towards it.
I made my way through the bowels of the hotel and out into a dark
alley. It was empty and silent. I looked to my left and about 100m
away saw a few security guards milling about.
Run they screamed. I began to move toward them.
I reached the main street and was immediately swept up into the
Indian throngs (for those who have been to Mumbai you know what I
mean). People everywhere. But they were all eerily quiet. No one
was talking. No car horns. Nothing.
I started yelling "airport airport".
Some one (a hotel cook I believe) grabbed me and my bag and threw
me in a rusty mini-cab.
siren. Just the sound of this shit-box car speeding down the
Traffic was stop and go. I made it to the airport in about 1hr,
cleared customs and buried myself in a corner of a packed departure
lounge, called my wife, called my parents and brothers and started
emailing those friends who knew I was in Mumbai.
Sadly, Alex - my colleague who texted me for a drink, and his
friend, were not so lucky. The terrorists stormed into the lobby
bar and killed several people. They took Alex and his friend
hostage and started to march them up to the roof of the hotel.
About half way up, Alex managed to escape (he ducked through an
open door and hid) but his friend was caught. And as I write this,
that poor man is still on the roof of the Oberai.
Alex is safe but as expected, extremely worried about his friend.
I'm telling you right now. If I decided to meet Alex for that drink
tonight I'd either be dead, a hostage on the roof of a building 30
hours away from everyone I love or - if I had the balls of Alex - a
And remember that knock/ring at my door? Well, I subsequently
learned that the first thing the terrorists did was get the names
and room numbers of western guests. They then went to the rooms to
find them. Ehrlich, with an E, room 1820. I'll bet my entire life
savings that they were the knock at my door.
Thank god for jet lag.
Thank god for "cranky tired Jonny" (as many of my friends and
family know so well) that compelled to get into and stay in bed.
Thank god for being on the 18th floor.
Thank god for the kind kind people of Mumbai of helped me tonight.
The wonderfully kind hotel staff. That cook. My cab driver who
constantly said "relaxation" "relaxation" "I help" and who kept me
in the cab when we hit a particularly gnarly traffic jam and i
wanted to get out and walk. And for other people in traffic who,
upon hearing from my own cab driver that I was at the Oberai,
literally risked life and limb to stop traffic to let us get by (as
again, only those who have been to Mumbai can truly appreciate).
Mumbai is a tragically beautiful place. Incredibly sad. But I am
convinced that its inhabitants are definitely children of some
troubled but immensely soulfully god.
I'm sitting on plane (upgraded to first class..see, told you I'm
lucky). Just had the best tasting bowl of corn flakes
coursing through my veins. Concentration starting to loosen and
sleep beginning to creep onto my horizon.
I still feel a bit numb. But mostly I feel like I've just watched a
really really bad movie staring me. Because right now, it all
doesn't feel real.
Maybe a few hours of CNN will knock me into reality. But the truth
is numb is fine with me for a while. If I do end up thinking about
the what if's, I don't really want to do that until I'm much much
closer to home. And I have 30 more hours of travel time to go.
But before I sign off, let me say this.
The people who did this have no souls. They have no hearts. They
are simply the living manifestation of evil and they only know
killing and murder.
We - all of us - need to understand that. Their target tonight was
first and foremost Americans. Why? Because they fear everything
that America stands for. They fear hope and change and freedom and
Let's make no mistake; they would have shot me and my children
point blank tonight without a moment's hesitation. Most of us sorta
know that, but sometimes we equivocate. We can't equivocate. Not ever.
I know that I want to go back. Lay some flowers. Wrap my arms
around these people. Say thank you. Spend some money on overpriced
hotel gifts and tip well. And generally give the bastards who did
this the big **** you and show them that I am not - I repeat not -
afraid of them.
But first I need to go squeeze my wife. Dry her tears. Then have
her dry mine as I hold my beautiful beautiful babies who will be
(thankfully) oblivious to all of this. Because isn't that what life
is really about?
I appreciate you taking the time to listen.
With much much love.
LIVE CURRENT MEDIA INC.
Thanks, Helene xxxZ