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Surviving the Massacre in Mumbai: To Whom Much Is Given
by Peter O'Malley
Last Wednesday evening around 10pm, following a relaxing supper, my friend Eugene and I arrived at the check-out desk at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, as we have done together hundreds of times in our travels as New York investment bankers currently living in Hong Kong.
As I placed my bag on the table I heard a loud gunshot, which I recognized from my years living in South Africa to be the distinctive snap of an AK-47 assault rifle. Hearing another shot a second later, I looked at Eugene and said, "Run, that's AK!"
We streaked away from the gunfire toward the nearest exit as the terrorists were entering the hotel lobby from various points. I smashed through the doors toward the pool area and ducked into some bushes as the gunfire grew in intensity. I realized Eugene did not make it out of the lobby.
Five or six people had arrived in the bushes before me, all now paralyzed in fear. From the sound of things I realized that a Columbine-like shooting spree was taking place inside, with gunmen walking around methodically executing people. Mind racing, I concluded that being bunched up in the bushes in the corner of the pool area was not safe.
Surveying the scene brought the dispiriting conclusion that we were trapped, surrounded by dozen foot-high walls on all sides. I scanned the walls and then scrambled for a finger or toehold, but found none. I did, however, spy an air conditioning duct about nine feet above me. I leaped and was able to knock a cover away. I jumped again and grabbed onto the unit, but as I tried to pull myself up, I fell, causing the folks in the bushes to hush me to be quiet.
A quick aspiration to the Holy Spirit -- "Come, O Holy Spirit, fill the heart of thy faithful!" – and then another leap upward. This time I was able to grab on and pull myself up over the wall where I flipped onto a lean-to roof of the pool shed. I laid low and quiet, partially concealing myself with tree branches.
Breathless, I thought to email my colleagues in London and apprise them of our plight. "Urgent: This is not a joke. At Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Gunmen on loose. People killed. Call police." Then I turned off my phone, thinking a ring could give away my position and bring on a quick and violent death.
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