Four of them were clutching each other’s hands as they lay under a table at Trident’s Tiffin restaurant, pretending to be dead. Now, two wave to each other from their beds at Bombay Hospital.
Washington-based Andolina Vaogata and Linda Ragsdale (49) feel lucky to be alive but deeply feel the loss of their friend Alan Sheer and his 13-year-old daughter Naomi, who were shot dead on Wednesday night.
Their eyes well up every time they think of how excited Naomi was to sit on an airplane for the first time. Or how, she had made a pact with Ragsdale to do eight somersaults in the Trident swimming pool by Friday.
The group had come to Mumbai on a two-week meditation retreat — they had been planning it for years —and had gone to Trident for dinner after a peaceful session with their spiritual guru.
“We were so happy that day. We were joking and laughing loudly when we heard the first gunshots,” said Vaogata, smiling.
The friends ducked under the table and held on to each other as the terrorists randomly fired at the crowd. A bullet hit Sheer in his head and his body fell on Vaogata, splattering her with blood. Soon after, Naomi stopped screaming and her body became lifeless. She had been hit, too.
“We were so close that I felt the impact of the bullet in Allan’s head. I could feel the life drain out of him,” said Vaogata.
Ragsdale recalled “the young man” in the restaurant. “He had a large gun and a massive pack on his back and waist filled with ammunition. I could not register anything beyond his weapons.”
A bullet pierced Vaogata’s right thigh and Ragsdale’s shoulder but they continued to pose dead — they have no idea of the duration — till a Trident staff member came to take them to the kitchen and then down a flight of stairs to the street.
“The hotel staff saved us. They helped me and almost carried Andolina to the taxi,” said Ragsdale, adding that the doctors and nurses had taken really good care of them.
Vaogata vowed to come back. “Indians are so gentle. The actions of one group should not be a reflection on the country. We love India and we will be back,” she said.