They Survived the Terror in Mumbai
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN INDIA
THE city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, has a burgeoning population of more than 18 million. Daily, between six million and seven million of these residents travel on fast and frequent suburban trains to their places of employment, to schools and colleges, to shopping areas, or to local sights. During peak hours each overcrowded nine-car train, with a normal capacity of 1,710, carries about 5,000 passengers. It was at such a peak time on July 11, 2006, that terrorists targeted the Mumbai trains. In less than 15 minutes, seven bombs exploded on different trains along the Western Railway, leaving more than 200 dead and 800 injured.
Quite a number of individuals from the 22 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mumbai and its suburbs are regular passengers on the trains and were on the ones that were attacked. Thankfully, none of them lost their life, but several were injured. Anita was returning home from work. The train was crowded, so she was standing near the door of the first-class compartment in order to exit more easily. As the train sped along, suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, and her compartment filled with black smoke. As she leaned out the door and looked to her right, she saw that the metal side of the next compartment had been ripped away and was hanging from the body of the train at a 45-degree angle. She was appalled to see bodies and body parts flying out of the gap onto the tracks. After what seemed an eternity to her—but was actually only a few seconds—the train stopped. She, along with other passengers, jumped down onto the tracks and ran to get far away from the train. Anita phoned her husband, John, on her cell phone and fortunately got through to him; within minutes the entire city’s phone system was jammed with anxious callers. She had been relatively calm until she spoke to her husband. Then she broke down and cried. She told him what had happened and asked him to come and get her. While she waited for him, rain started to pour down, washing away much of the evidence that would have helped investigators.
Claudius, another one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, left his office earlier than usual. He boarded the 5:18 p.m. train at Churchgate Station, the city terminus of the Western Railway, and entered a first-class compartment. While looking for a seat for the hour-long journey to Bhayandar station, he saw Joseph, who was from a nearby congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Time passed quickly as the two exchanged news. Then, tired from his day’s work, Joseph dozed off. Since the train was packed, Claudius got up at the station before his own to make his way to the door. While Claudius was standing there, Joseph woke up and leaned over the back of the seat to wish him good-bye. Holding a bar on the seat, Claudius leaned over to speak to him. That possibly saved Claudius’ life. Suddenly, there was a great noise. The compartment shook violently, filled with smoke, and became totally dark. Claudius was hurled to the floor between rows of seats and, except for a ringing sound in his ears, seemed to have lost his hearing. Where he had previously been standing, there was just a gaping hole. The commuters standing beside him had either been thrown out onto the tracks or were lying dead on the floor. He had survived the fifth of the seven blasts that rocked the railway system on that fateful Tuesday.
Claudius was transported to the hospital, with blood all over his clothes. However, the blood was mainly from other less-fortunate passengers. He suffered only minor injuries—a ruptured eardrum, burns on one hand, and singed hair. At the hospital he met up with Joseph and Joseph’s wife, Angela, who had been in the next compartment reserved for ladies and was unhurt. Joseph suffered a bruised right eye and hearing loss. These three Witnesses thanked Jehovah that they were alive. Claudius commented that his first thought when he regained his senses was, ‘How pointless it is in this system to chase after money and material gain when life can be snuffed out in an instant!’ He was glad that he had made his relationship with his God, Jehovah, the most important thing in his life!
Within a brief period, the city of Mumbai had suffered from severe flooding, riots, and then the bomb blasts. However, the more than 1,700 Witnesses there have a fine, zealous spirit. They regularly share with their neighbors the wonderful hope of a new world, where all violence will be a thing of the past.—Revelation 21:1-4.
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Where he had previously been standing, there was just a gaping hole
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Joseph and Angela
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Sebastian D’Souza/AFP/Getty Images