Friday, November 28, 2008

Too Close for Comfort

A friend of mine sent me this today:
Dateline Mumbai;

I was lucky. Just two hours separated me from a life altering event.

Yes I was there. My flight was on approach to BOM when the first terrorist attacks took place. Our ETA to the Oberi/Trident hotel was about 90mins later. The outbound crew was scheduled to be in the lobby about 20mins after the first attack at the hotel (10:30pm).

My crew spent 6hrs on the aircraft before being relocated to one of the airport hotels. In retrospect, NWA should have gotten us there immediately. We were the crew who would fly out of BOM. Being off duty on the aircraft is not resting, and I correctly guestimated how most of the decision process was going to play out over the next 12hrs. We were eating into what would be a 48hr period with (in my case) just 4hrs of sleep. I thought my day couldn’t get much worse.

At this moment, I’m on a flight from BOM-AMS. My crewmembers are all safe, and we have nine of eleven of the crew who were at the Oberi/Trident. Sadly, a pilot and FA are still at the Oberi, holed up in their rooms. NWA hired two different civilian extraction teams to get them out of the hotel safely ... you know, expats - challenge/response passwords & all that James Bond stuff ... That may have worked initially; but the hotel was locked down by the local military (to the exclusion of those rescue teams) and that simply provided the terrorists time to reorganize, take hostages, and prepare for a long standoff.

Flashback to Oberi hotel. Some stories from that unfortunate crew follow: (Apparently, a well built hotel muffles sound more than you might think ..... )

F/A exits the elevator in the lobby of the Trident. The terrorists (probably) just gunned their way through the lobby, into a connecting hallway to the Oberi (their primary target). Bodies and pools of blood everywhere. The two girls at the front desk, Bellman, and Doorman all killed in the initial attack. All other people in the lobby were either shot/killed or helped the injured out of the hotel. The FA returned to his room then followed a housecleaner out through a (sort of) hidden stairway into the relative safety of the street. I later found out the hotel manager, who lives in the hotel with his wife and children, were all killed in the initial attack. That may point to an “insider” helping the terrorists.

Another F/A goes to the elevator to head down to the lobby. Doors open and the interior of the car was splattered in blood. She returned to her room and got a few other F/A’s and left that floor via the emergency exit. Once out on the exposed outer stairway, the fire door locked behind them. If they ran into trouble down below, without another exit strategy, they’d be truly screwed. Near the bottom, they heard a lot of commotion beyond a set of double doors. They were potentially stuck in a real bad situation. They backed up a bit, laid down and played possum (wouldn’t have worked - no blood). A few minutes later a police team came up to their position and escorted them to the relative safety of a nearby parking garage.

A male Chinese F/A was trying to escape the hotel following a hotel employee through a different pitch black service stairway. He opened a door to a short hallway leading into the lobby. Shell casings and damage littered the floor. He started into the lobby and came face to face with one of the armed terrorists. Fortunately, he was not in uniform, and wearing a European style black leather jacket. He didn’t fit the victim “profile.” He turned around, back through the hallway ... got out alive.

That crew eventually spent about 9hrs on an ascending ramp at a concrete parking structure about two blocks from the hotel. The F/O on the scene separated that crew from perhaps 300 other confused civilians. Automatic weapon fire and hand grenade explosions permeated the restless night. They were able to keep in touch with NWA security via an international cell phone. They got on a charter bus about 9am, and were transported to the hotel where my crew was located.

I’m now in AMS. I’ll be on a flight to civilization in another 3hrs. The two crewmembers stuck in the BOM hotel are still OK, but ... still waiting to be rescued ... along with Lufthansa and Air France crews.

The above was a quick summary of what happened last night. I could get into a Lot more detail. But right now, there’s a shower with my name in it.

Going out on a limb here, I know, but I'll bet some Religion of Peace adherents found Revealed Justification for machine gunning people going about their daily lives.


Blogger erp said...

This is past horrible. Action shows like "The Unit" are fun to watch on TV because we know it's fiction and then we get to see reality on TV in the form of terrorism on a large scale without anybody seeming to know what to do about it. Where's Sgt. Blane when we need him?

There was something weird about Obama, who's very deliberate, calling Zardari, but not Singh in his first round of calls to foreign leaders.

Do you think India was chosen because of her close ties with Bush? This massacre looks like a warning to Obama not to follow Bush's policy of encouraging inclusion in the Anglosphere.

November 29, 2008 7:00 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

I wouldn't read too much messaging to the Americans in this attack. The India/Pak/Hindu/Muslim mutual hatred society is way more powerful than either of their hatred for the US. This really is a very local (regional)conflict, in my mind. We should continue to support India over Pakistan wherever their interests collide.

Besides, Pakistan is a democracy now. We can't be blamed for anything their government does or doesn't do anymore.

November 29, 2008 7:54 AM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

So far, it seems more complicated/confused than either Skipper's or Duck's brief takes.

If it's true that the killers were targeting people with US and UK passports, then it can't have been just subcontinent communal rivalries.

And if it were just RoP, then the killers would have killed Hindus as easily as, or more easily than, Anglos.

Something new here, a melange of hatreds? Minions of a charismatic nut?

Recall that Gandhi was murdered by Hindu homosexual Nazis. India is like quantum mechanics. Not only stranger than we know but stranger than we can imagine.

November 29, 2008 11:41 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


I hadn't heard that Obama called Zardari first; perhaps Obama has had a "you are either with us, or against us moment" and wanted to share with Zardari.

Do you think India was chosen because of her close ties with Bush?

Kashmir and ongoing communal strife (see the partition, BJP, Golden Temple, et al) provide reason enough.

However, within the jihadist universe, which seems far more adept at novel suicide tactics than strategy, going for Westerners is always a bonus.


So far, it seems more complicated/confused than either Skipper's [brief take].

The real point of my post wasn't to add any information that couldn't be had elsewhere. Rather, my friend (at whose house I stayed about a month and a half ago) came within a dice throw of being caught up in nihilistic theological mayhem.

It brings a gut level impact to an already awful enough event.

And if it were just RoP, then the killers would have killed Hindus as easily as, or more easily than, Anglos.

The jihadis murdered a bunch of Hindus in the train station, BTW.

November 29, 2008 3:54 PM  
Blogger Harry Eagar said...

I got the gut level reaction when they just missed my daughter-in-law on Sept. 11.

It's important to put emotion aside, though.

November 29, 2008 8:13 PM  

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