mila: We were in Delhi when we got the call. Actually, there was a secret call placed to my mom by my aunt. At what time, I’m uncertain but it was around the time of the first attack at the Taj Hotel. My mother didn’t tell any of us… Us includes me, Ashley and my mom’s sister. Oddly enough, my mom was expecting something of this nature, and this is what had her on edge, and I had no idea. She had already told herself and us that she was going to stay awake for the twenty hour train ride from Mumbai to Delhi. She said it was so no one would steal our things but in reality she was stressed out thinking there might be some terrorist attack. I love this. I love that my mom was expecting terrorism and it happened. She’s always had good instincts and that’s probably where I got it from, if I do say so myself.

Before we got to Bombay Central, which is the train station, we toured more of the highlights of Mumbai… This included the Gateway to India, which is right across from the infamous Taj Hotel, which is right next to the dock, where the terrorists came through. I actually had foreknowledge of this famous hotel chain and especially about this hotel in particular. I was inclined to stay at the hotel but there was no reason to spend the money as my family lives in the city as well. My cousin, while he was scouting for a film, stayed at that hotel and loved it. I was definitely going to go in and spend some time in there. At the time we had passed by there wasn’t any parking and we were in a hurry to catch our train so we couldn’t drop in. But I remember looking out onto the docks and seeing all the boats and I felt strange. I didn’t know why, I just thought it was odd for some reason. We moved on … Got on the train and were miserable for some time until we got to Delhi.

We basically never got a chance to sleep because our first night there was the night of the terrorist attack. Like I said, my mom already knew about it but never told us. In hindsight, this may not have been the best decision because Ashley’s cellphone blew up (figuratively speaking) at around one thirty in the morning. Call after call, everyone back in the States were stressed out and extremely worried. The news in America was very different from what we were being told by the locals and my family in Mumbai. This is how you know media works in strange sometimes skewed ways. Nonetheless, there was still reason to be on edge. In no time, all of us were awake and sitting in our hotel room, which by the way was in a temple and we had no television or internet so we couldn’t figure out anything on our own and relied on outside cellular forces to relay messages. That experience alone was very frustrating- feeling cut off from the rest of the world and having an overwhelming sense of the unknown looming over you. I called the American Embassy several times and every time they said they did not have any instructions for us. So we all lie around waiting for something to happen. This is about the time we started thinking about what we should do next… Do we go back to the United States? Do we swathe Ashley in sheets so she can pass as a Muslim? I felt like we should’ve taken this as the opportunity to fly to Europe and go have a merry time over there… No one else agreed. We also knew that at some point we were to return to Mumbai and how safe was that going to be if they were in fact targeting Americans. I said some dramatic things, which I will let Ashley divulge or else I would feel dumb talking about myself even though that’s what I’m doing right now…

Anyhow, that day we left for Agra with a sense of nervousness lingering in ourselves. And it was strange because when we looked around us, our environment showed no signs of there being a terrorist attack just south of us. When we drove into Agra, we were still paranoid since we were visiting the Taj Mahal, that being the main landmark of India couldn’t necessarily help the situation. However, if you weren’t aware before, the Taj Mahal is very much Koran-oriented and infused with Islamic influence. I thought, Good, we’re actually safe for a change. The Taj Mahal is also sandwiched between two identical mosques. Maybe it’s ignorant, but really, if the terrorists are in fact Muslim, why would they come after something that “belongs” to them?

When we got back to the hotel we got to look at the newspapers and they were calling it the “9/11” of India… That didn’t sound so good. I tried to hide it from my friend so as not to add further fuel to the fire and we went to bed. Next on the trip was Jaipur, another popular touristy city. But they just got bombed so maybe the terrorists were through with that area for now…? For the next couple days I relied on the Times of India, a newspaper to obtain news, who would ever think? The headlines read “Terror Reigns” until finally, when it all came to an end “Terror Eliminated”.

In any event, we tried our best to enjoy the adventures and for the most part we did a good job. But there was this constant reminder that we were unsafe. And it’s not like being back in America makes you any safer, but still, you feel safe at home.

ashley: I remember checking my phone to check the time, hoping morning was close because I couldn’t sleep. I look at it and see that I have 16 missed calls. I instantly get nervous thinking something bad happened at home. Just as I’m about to dial, I see my brother-in-law’s number and I pick it up. He tells me that there has been a terrorist attack in Mumbai (Bombay). I talk to my sister and she’s in tears because she thought I may have been hurt. My brother Chris heard about it first. He got worried and called my mom and the American Embassy. Now, let me just tell you, my brother never freaks out, and if he freaks out, we basically know something is very wrong. And he was freaking out. I felt so terrible that my family had been so upset and we had no idea what was going on. By this point, all four of us are up now, getting second hand information, due to the fact that we have no television, internet or radio.
During all this, Mila is very calm, she rolls over and falls asleep for about an hour. We all still talk trying to figure out what to do, my mom wants me to come home naturally. I say “This is what the terrorists want mom! They try to incite fear into the people. I won’t give them that” Probably not the best thing to say to your mother. But that’s how I felt. After deciding to finally get up, we try to figure out if I should cover myself and try to look un-touristy. Well, that’s not really going to work. I mean, all I have are my red converse, jeans and t-shirts. Mila rolls over and says “Don’t worry. I will die before I let them take you.” Amazing. We both started laughing at the intensity and passion behind the statement. But you know what, we ARE best friends. And best friends say these things. It’s what we do.

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