Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai. CC image courtesy of Mosilager on Flickr
Marie Brenner in Vanity Fair:
Mooers had no such illusions. She seemed to understand what was happening almost from the start. At 9:45 she placed a call to the concierge. “Is someone doing a demolition?” she asked.
“No, Ms. Mooers.”
“Well, then, you better call the Bombay police and security,” she said. “A bomb has gone off inside the hotel.”
There was no reaction from the concierge. “Do not worry, Ms. Mooers. It is wedding season. There are fireworks all through the city.”
“What I heard were not fireworks. I think there are terrorists in the hotel,” she told him.
“We will check on it,” the concierge said, his tone light and bright. A few moments later Mooers heard gunshots. It was becoming clear to everyone that the hotel was under attack. The operators—who would stay on duty until dawn—began to call guests: “Stay inside. Whatever you do, don’t open your door to anyone. There is a problem in the hotel.”
All that night and the next day, Mooers was on her phone. From her window she saw a man trapped in a burning room. Smoke came under her door. For 24 hours she was marooned in her suite. She thought, I am by the stairs. I might be saved.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai. CC image courtesy of Clogette on Flickr
With the clinical precision of a surgeon’s knife, Jason Motlagh revisits the terror of those 60 hours that began in Mumbai on 26/11. In the Virginia Quarterly Review.
I. Ten Gunmen, Ten Minutes
November 26, 2008. 9:40pm, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) hummed with the foot traffic of late commuters. Under hulking steel rafters, held over from the British colonial era, the PA announcer issued final calls for departing suburban trains as they lurched away one after the next, packed with passengers. Long-distance travelers, mostly the poor North Indian migrants who flock to the city by the tens of thousands, took up benches and spots on the concrete floor, resting on sheets of newsprint with their piles of luggage.
Fongen Fernandes, the spry fifty-three-year-old manager of the upper level of the Re-Fresh snack bar with its tall glass panels overlooking the platforms, was talking to a graphic designer. Fernandes stood admiring the designer’s digital handiwork on a laptop open at a table in the far corner of the restaurant, when he felt sand-like debris sprinkle the top of his head. “What’s this?” he said to himself. He wiped his smooth pate a couple times and continued talking, unaware that below two young men had emerged from a bathroom abutting Platform 13 and begun spraying the crowd with gunfire, unaware that a high-velocity bullet shot from less than thirty yards away had missed him by inches and lodged in the wall over his shoulder. He bid the designer farewell and was halfway down the stairs when another series of rounds cracked against the wall and showered sparks into the air. A grenade exploded on the platform. more