As he watched on TV the news of armed terrorists shooting people in Paris a few weeks ago, Vishnu D Zende was reminded of what he witnessed at CST on November 26, 2008.
Zende, then an announcer for the Central Railway, used his presence of mind to save many lives that night, when Pakistani terrorists Ajmal Kasab and Abu Ismail attacked CST, hurling grenades and spraying bullets at commuters.
He used the announcement system to guide passengers away from the spots the terrorists were holding and towards the rear exit gates.
He has since been promoted and the Virar resident, who now works in Panvel, rarely goes to CST, but says it is impossible to forget that day.
“Every time I visit CST, I remember every minute detail, even after seven years. Every time I hear about a terror attack, memories of 26/11 come back,” he said.
Around 10pm that night, Zende was in his tiny mezzanine floor office, above the motorman and guard lobby at CST. He suddenly saw passengers panicking and running, and then he heard loud blasts and gun fire. When he realised the station was being attacked, he took his microphone and started telling commuters to escape from the station using the back gates. He made several announcements about which parts of the station the terrorists were in. One of the two terrorists even shot at Zende’s office – a bullet made a hole in the glass shield of his window, but it fortunately missed him.
For his extraordinary courage and presence of mind, he was awarded Rs10 Lakh and medal. He also received a pat on his back from US President Barack Obama, during his Mumbai visit. “Obama told me, ‘you have done a good job’,” Zende said. “I only fulfilled my duty at the time. But as a common man, I feel it’s high time we deal with terrorism.”
The 45-year railway employee says the seventh anniversary of 26/11 terror attacks will be just another day for him, but is concerned about the rising terror across the world.
“When are we going to find a permanent solution to the problem of terrorism?”