By Kia Scherr
Nov 22, 2018
I was in Florida that day, enjoying the sunshine and a cloudless blue sky as I took a walk around the block in my mother’s quiet neighbourhood. Palm trees swayed gently in the warm breeze as I thought of Alan and Naomi, my husband and 13-year-old daughter. I wondered what time it would be in Mumbai. It must be dinner time, I thought. I was surprised I had not heard from them that day but maybe there would be an email when I returned to my mother’s house, I thought.
But no email was waiting for me. As I was preparing tea, the phone rang. I still vividly remember that ring and the urgent message that followed. “Kia turn on the news, the Oberoi Hotel is being attacked by terrorists.” I felt numb and the phone slipped from my limp hands as I almost collapsed. I was praying for the information to be wrong but when we turned on the news, we realised it was true.
It wasn’t until two days later, early morning, that we learned the fate of Alan and Naomi. Both had been shot and killed under a table at the Tiffin restaurant of the Oberoi Hotel. As the attack unfolded in front of us on TV and sent shock waves across the world, messages of love and prayer found their way to me in Florida.
Alan and Naomi were in Mumbai with a group from the Synchronicity Modern Meditation Foundation and hundreds of messages were sent to that website from people of all religions – Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and more. In the midst of the deepest grief I had ever known, I also felt a tsunami of love pouring forth from our world family. For the first time I felt this world family personally and the magnitude of this love overpowered hatred, anger, disbelief and shock. I knew this is who we truly are as human beings. I knew that those young men who became terrorists must have been disconnected from love, disconnected from their own true essence, and that enabled them to kill other human beings. I felt compassion for these lost souls and I remembered the words of Jesus Christ - “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” I decided in that moment to focus on forgiveness, love, compassion and peace. I knew deep in my heart that this would be my survival.
The surviving members of the group from Synchronicity all agreed that we must choose love in response to terror. Master Charles Cannon, our spiritual director, suggested we bring our focus to ‘a greater vision’ to create a positive outcome to this tragedy. This greater vision is to affirm life rather than destroy it. This vision is to honour the oneness and sacredness of life in ourselves and in everyone we meet. Life is what we all share and it must be honoured. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is the golden rule that we all know, but now is time to live it every day in every way we can. We co-founded One Life Alliance to carry out this vision and inspire others to join us.
Because of the generosity of Mr. PRS Oberoi and funding from the family of two of our survivors, Joe and John Slicker, I was able to spend most of 2010-2016 in Mumbai reaching out to schools, businesses and the Mumbai police department. I felt compelled to invite the citizens of Mumbai to share this message and work with them to create programmes that would bring this vision into everyday life. I also needed to see where my husband and daughter spent the last ten days of their lives, and yes, even those last minutes in the Oberoi restaurant. They were so happy in that beautiful environment. They loved all of the sweetness India had to offer.
On one of my many visits to Mumbai, Harry, an Oberoi Shoppe owner, told me that he remembered my daughter earlier that day on November 26. She was in the shop with some women from the Synchronicity group and one of them bought her a bright green silk scarf. She put it on and danced all around the outside of the shop full of joy. I can just see her and am so grateful to Harry for sharing that precious memory.
My husband Alan was the coordinator of the group and organised the daily outings to various temples, including those on the Elephanta Island. He was known for his sense of humour and practical way of sorting everything out to run smoothly. I was told by an Indian friend who helped out at the evening meditations “I need you to know that for all the brief times I have known Alan on his visits to India he seemed so gracious and sincere - absolutely sincere in everything he did. A quality that perhaps one does not encounter so often…..his sincerity was amazing.” Alan told me on our last phone call “I love India so much I could die here.” He was a deeply spiritual person who loved being at the source of the ancient wisdom that is part of the fabric of India.
My family died in Mumbai, but I know they were enjoying every moment until that last night. I refuse to leave their memory lying under that table. I will honour their memory by dedicating my life to the opposite of terrorism – to love like an extremist. Love will always overpower hatred. A part of my life ended on 26/11 but after spending so much time in Mumbai I learned how to live again in a new way. Thank you Mumbai, for taking me into your heart and sharing your magic.
Every survivor must deal with loss of their loved ones in their own way. It takes time to grieve and to accept the finality of death. During these past ten years, I discovered that the essence of my husband and daughter lives on in my heart. I am now closer to them than ever before. This aspect of life continues and will never die. When we learn to connect with that essence, we will never be alone. We will be so full of love that it will flow out to everyone we meet. May the anniversary of 26/11 bring a strong focus to loving life as we love and honour all those whose lives ended on this day. Let their legacy live on in love as we join together as one to create a more peaceful world.
Kia Scherr is the founder of the One Life Alliance