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Flight Attendant's Report on Mumbai Attacks

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Flight Attendant's Report on Mumbai Attacks

Old 2nd Dec 2008, 21:19
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Flight Attendant's Report on Mumbai Attacks

I have just received this from a friend.
Moderator: Please feel free to move it if this is not an appropriate place to post it. It is a harrowing account.


This is one account from the Oberoi by an NWA F/A . . .

Dear Friends:

For those of you who don't know, I was on a layover at the Oberoi Trident hotel in Mumbai when the attacks occurred there last Wednesday night. Some of my memory of some of this is sketchy but here's what I remember.

Had a great, uneventful layover...the usual, massage, lunch at Trishna etc. Napped from about six pm to 9 pm. I received my 9:50 pm wakeup call from reception, reminding me of my 10:50 pm pickup time.
I left my room for the lobby about 10:35 and saw one of my flight attendants standing at the elevator bank. He said the elevators for some reason weren't working and that his calls from the house phone adjacent to them was going unanswered. My initial reaction was Oh God, am I going to have to carry all my bags down stairs???

I was heading back to my room to try calling from my room's phone when we heard a tremendous explosion that shook the building. We were on the 18th floor, and unaware of what was happening in the lobby and outside the hotel. I ran to my room and dialed reception, and again, no answer. I went back out into the hallway to see what we were going to decide to do when we heard another huge explosion followed by very loud screams.
At first I thought that an elevator had fallen as the screams seemed to come from the elevator shafts. Suddenly doors in the hallway were opening and heads were sticking out wondering what was going on. All of a sudden a young woman comes out and starts banging on other doors in the hallway screaming that the hotel was being attacked. Apparently she saw it on TV. My coworker and I ran into my room and turned on the television and on one of the local channels it was being reported that there were "firings" outside of some hotels. It was running across the bottom of the screen but the TV still had regular programming on. I wasn't sure what they meant by firings, but I couldn't help but wonder if that is what the explosions were. Everyone was confused about what to do, but my coworker said he was going to go down the stairway adjacent to the elevators to see if it was safe to get out. He was turned back by hotel staff several flights down. By this time I had that hall crowd of people in my room watching the news on TV that attacks were being carried out at several locations in the city.

All of a sudden one of the women who was a Lufthansa flight attendant got a call on her PDA and screamed that the hotel was on fire and we had to get out. Although we didn't know it at the time, it was actually the Taj Hotel on fire. But we decided to head down the stairs. Instinctively, I grabbed my passport, crew badge, wallet, and cash, and locked my luggage in my room. Some of the women were crying but it was orderly going down.
Strangely nobody from above followed the 16 of us. We made it to the pool level which is on the rooftop of the third floor, but the all the glass doors to the outside areas were locked. That floor also has banquet and meeting rooms and we found all the doors locked. Inside the ladies room the towels are cloth, so we grabbed a bunch of them and wet them in case we had to breathe through smoke. But we hadn't smelled any if the hotel was indeed on fire.
We were trying to figure out where to go at that point when we encountered a hotel security guard. He WHISPERED (which began to scare me even more) for us to stay there as there was an "incident" in the lobby. We cut through a linen tied to the insides of large bronze handles of the doors to one of the banquet rooms. He told us to be very very quiet, and to stay there until someone came to get us. He also told us to stay on the floor. We were in that room for over an hour, and several of the Lufthansa crewmembers with us had PDA's, and were getting information from outside sources, so we learned the situation was not good. Eventually hiding in the dark there, we barricaded the door with a large table and waited.....then we heard voices. My heart I swear stopped for a few seconds. We were all on the floor holding hands, praying, some were crying softly etc....
Turned out to be that same security man. He was like he was sent from heaven. He said there were men here to help us evacuate. There were about a half dozen guys in camo with large automatic rifles. We were then led through a long set of offices, storage areas etc, until eventually we came out into a mezzanine level in the lobby through the hotel's business center. There was a Van Cleef and Arpels store and a Brioni mens clothing store and all the windows were shattered, as were all the windows to the outside. Apparently grenades had been thrown in some lobby areas. There was glass EVERYWHERE! They told us to stay closely together, and QUIETLY but quickly follow them. But every time we encountered a turn in the hallway, or an open area, they halted us and the military guys aimed their rifles in all directions. We had to descend a large staircase into the open main lobby of the hotel, and RUN past the front desk, the concierge, and out the main doors. There was not ONE window intact, there was blood everywhere, and the restaurant called Opium Den next to the elevators had at least a dozen bullet holes in the glass. Apparently several people were killed there. Everywhere we stepped there was glass.....on the furniture, the carpeting, the marble floors...everywhere. There were also NO people....anywhere. The huge glass doors to the main entrance were reduced to about six inches deep of glass pieces similar to a windshield break. It wasn't like sheet glass.

It was weird.So we didn't have to open any doors to get out. We were halted in the entrance area and the rifle men repositioned. That was perhaps the most terrifying part. Not knowing where the bad guys with guns and grenades were, or if we were going to get shot from someplace or somebody that was hiding. We ran across the street and up about three blocks to a movie theater complex's parking ramp where we were in the company of several hundred people....guests and hotel staff both. We got there at around 12:30-1:00 am. We found our two first officers, and one of them had an international use cell phone that ended up being our lifeline. We were on the phone with the state department, headquarters in MSP, and several others so our exact location could be known and monitored. Since the whole area had been cordoned off, there was no traffic movement so we ended up there until dawn, when after a very confusing and chaotic shifting of groups, we finally got a private bus company to shuttle us from outside the locked-down area to a destination which changed three times enroute. It was to a hotel near the airport where we eventually met up with the crew that brought our outbound plane "in". It was pretty much carte blanche with meals, expenses, and phone calls to family, etc.

Exhaustion was setting in, as were emotions, and I didn't sleep that whole day but a shower made all the difference. EVERY sound outside my room sent the adrenaline pumping. At that point we were missing flight attendant ----- -----, and our captain, --- ----. The state dept. assured us they were in contact with them every half hour even though they were still trapped inside the Oberoi. About 5:30 pm, we got calls saying they were evacuating us out of India, and to be in the lobby at 6:05 pm. We finally took off without --- and ----- at 8 pm, and landed in Amsterdam at around 3:30 am. It is about a nine hour flight, but I slept the whole way. We supposedly had 15 people in coach and only WE were seated in first class.
Thank God those seats lie flat. We were met in Amsterdam by several KLM managers, grief counselors, and clergy of about six different faiths. That was good, as it turned out, one of our flight attendants was in the lobby when the shootings took place and saw several people killed. Another had actually called an elevator to her floor and found it empty, but with a pool of blood on the floor, so she ran back to her room.
We were all given emergency clothing kits of underwear, socks, and KLM sweatshirt and sweatpants, along with amenity kits of basic sundries, at least to get us home. Since we were given the option of staying in Amsterdam to rest, counsel, have clothing purchased for us, or whatever, and fly home the next day, or to continue on to our home cities. Out of the nine of MY crewmembers, and the 11 crewmembers who landed in Mumbai about the time this started, only two chose to stay.

They also said a large group of reporters was waiting for us to exit, so we were sent off the property a different way, to a hotel nearby for a four hour layover until the first flight to Detroit departed, thank God. I was OUT that entire flight as well. A glass of wine and a xanax works wonders! We were then met in Detroit by several NWA senior management personnel and Employee Assistance Program psychologists. We were quickly and quietly expedited through customs and immigration and offered the chance to talk to anybody we wished, but my flight was leaving for Milwaukee in 40 minutes so I had to decline. Turns out that crew to Milwaukee had been told of my presence and they went out of their way to make me comfortable, as did the crews of every flight that got me home. As a matter of fact, I have never seen such kindness and compassion extended to us, like it was by everybody we encountered, from hotel staffs to Airport and airline personnel. It was truly extraordinary. Some processed it differently, and at different times, but I finally broke when I learned that ----- and --- had finally been released unharmed and were preparing to board a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt before catching the NWA flight to Detroit from there.

We left Mumbai with little more than the clothes on our backs, but Detroit inflight has been in touch, and they said they will replace EVERYTHING we lost, and at full monetary value, no questions asked, or receipts required. They have also dropped most of my December schedule with pay. I lost my TravelPro luggage, garment bag, laptop, cell phone, ipod, Nikon camera, skype phone. clothing, leather coat, uniform pieces etc, but I came out of there unharmed, and with my LIFE, which is what mattered most.

Since I sat in row 1 on my flight to Milwaukee, I was first off the plane. ------ met me at the end of the jetway and burst into tears, which turned on the water for me too. Then the gate agent started in, and I think everybody in the gate area waiting to depart was wondering what the hell had just happened. lol It was only when ------ offered up "let me help you with your bags" (I had ONE small plastic bag with a handle), did the laughter emerge through the tears. Outside of security in Milwaukee we were met by ------- and -----, and ---- and ---. I wanted to get home and up to the farm to be with -----, but I agreed, thankfully to stop over at Amelia's by the airport for a bloody mary. MAN, that tasted good! Special thanks go out to you guys......that small gesture did NOT go unappreciated! So tonight I'm able to finally sit here at my desktop PC and finally get back to you. Thanks for understanding.

I am using an extra cell phone of -----'s until mine can be replaced. The number is: ----------. I hope to have my old number tomorrow, if I have time to get to the Sprint store.... I'm in no rush. It was sort of nice to not have to answer a phone for a couple days.

There is so much more, but that's pretty much how I spent my Thanksgiving.

I will spend a few days getting some of this leg work done, but hope to talk to you all soon. God Bless.....
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Old 2nd Dec 2008, 21:26
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For once in my life I am lost for words.
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Old 2nd Dec 2008, 21:38
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The only post on this forum, and any other forum for that matter, that makes you realise regardless of what everyone moans about on PPrune, very little if anything compares to the problems these crew members faced in Mumbai. I think it is an appropriate place to post it and thanks for sharing it.
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Old 2nd Dec 2008, 21:52
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Very interesting. I am so impressed with the support given by security staff, KLM and NW staff. Truly responded to the event and personal needs to the highest standard.
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Old 2nd Dec 2008, 22:25
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There but for the grace of God go I....

A truly,truly moving account. All credit to the various crews & NWA/KLM management for unflailing support during the most harrowing of times.

And thank God everybody got out safely.

Our thoughts go out to the ones left behind, & those who didn't make it to safety.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 04:04
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The only post on this forum, and any other forum for that matter,
For the German language speaking here there are some reports from FAs at the German forum flugbegleiter.net which is a forum for (mostly) FAs with some pilots and frequent travellers in it.

One of the reports describes also the efforts that LH has taken to send a plane to bring them all back, with psychologists and medical aid on board.

Shocking stuff.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 04:25
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Yes a moving account indeed.

Do crews need to stay at the best shows in town on a lay over??

It is a bit easier for me, as I am unscheduled, not airline but I make it a point to stay at a good, clean quiet hotel, not the "top show" in town and have adopted this approach since the Sheraton in Karachi was attached. I think my safety is more important than "luxury".

Airlines and unions need to think a little more on this as next time crews may not be so lucky. At the top hotels there are a lot of eggs in one basket.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 04:46
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Do crews need to stay at the best shows in town on a lay over??
Not involved now, long retired, but often the Top Show is the only show that can accommodate longhaul crews schedules, which can mean arriving and departing at Unsocial Hours, and a requirement for room service etc, and, probably most important, the ability to get quiet rest in the middle of everybody else's noisy day. ( Mini-bar waiters, pls. note ! )

Well done that NW F/A, and thank you, and well done NW too.

Best of luck.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 05:28
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Do crews need to stay at the best shows in town on a lay over??
Crews stay at hotels that agree to meet a long list of requirements, from airport transportation to cash advances to keeping maids away until late morning to serving breakfast in the afternoon, etc... Anything and everything necessary to avoid lack of appropriate rest. As ExSpeedBird said, it's usually the best staffed, best run hotels that can sign on, and that's where crews end up at.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 06:10
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Oh agreed on all points. However the terrorists are also aware of crew's requirements.

I am glad security was not mentioned, as there is no affective security and that applies to any 3, 4 or 5 star hotel, that I have ever stayed at.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 11:31
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I feel privileged to have read it.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 12:34
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A very moving description of the events. Really impressed with the back-up that this crew-member was given after the event. Makes you realise how fragile our lives really are and that things like this can happen completely without warning and in the what we would perceive to be the safest of places...
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 13:53
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This was a good account, quartermilltopo.

I'm sorry to see it disappear in here.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 15:26
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Very good report well written Glad to see you got home Shame so many had to die
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 16:25
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Great first person account
While good hotels may serve as terror magnets,there staff are better trained.
This can make the difference between life and death.
As is bourne out by the help provided by the hotel security staff(at considerable risk to their own lives)
Condolences to the families of those who didnt make it out alive.

Last edited by leftseatview; 3rd Dec 2008 at 16:59.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 16:53
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I'm sure the authoress will appreciate your thoughtfulness.


The author was me; and I'm male.

This email was directed to close friends and family members who I hadn't yet connected with, for the sole purpose of not having to recount it (and relive it) countless times. It was NOT my intent to have this account "go global", if you will, and that apparently seems to be what happened. I'm grateful whoever posted it here in this forum decided to delete the proper names, and the temporary phone number that was included in the original. Apparently others weren't so thoughtful, as I've been contacted by several media outlets, and contacted by people I don't even know. The event has shaken me to my core, and I hope these sorts of events don't become more commonplace in our profession. Sometimes it seems the world is no longer our friend. Sad, indeed....

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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 17:02
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There but for the grace of God, this could be any one of us.
Sorry the mods had to move it from Rumours but that is their call of course.
I will be passing the link over to our cabin crew training department, flight ops and security in the morning. I think we should all read it as it is highly relevant to us all.
Well done and thankyou to the NW crew who posted this.

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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 17:21
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Incredible and thought provoking account, it really brings home what this job can entail at times.

Hope your other colleagues who followed behind after you are safe and well looked after too, their account seems even more harrowing.
You all deserve the best treatment right now, and perhaps the amazing part of your account was the good and kindness offered to you by so many, starting with the oberoi security man to the staff at your local airport days later. Restores your faith in people when you hear of actions like that.

A shocking few days in the city of Mumbai, and of course a terrible end for many, not withstanding ongoing ordeals for those related and affected over there too.

I am sure those who read this and are in the industry, will identify with many things in the above, and be grateful for your words and the emotion that lies within them .
It's sad that your details got out in this way too, i only hope you shake off the media and that your privacy is restored along with your life getting back to normal.
Take care ,give yourself time, and be assured that after reading this, the thoughts and total consideration of many are with you
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 17:52
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Tom, This was sent to me by an airline colleague (initials C.J.F.) and I was very moved by your account. I had no means of contacting you to seek your permission to reproduce it on this site. If my doing so has caused you any grief, please let me know and I will have it deleted immediately.
You will have seen, by the replies, that you have struck a profound chord with a large number of people who are so full of admiration for you and all your support teams. I hope, for this reason, you will allow it to stand in the hope that it will be of inspiration to others who have yet to read it.
I also apologise for reassigning your gender - aah, the dangers of assumptions.
With my sincere best wishes to you and all your colleagues.
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Old 3rd Dec 2008, 18:27
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1/4MT: I will allow it to stand for all the reasons you mention. The only ones I take issue with are those who chose to share it without deleting the names and the phone number. You can't imagine the how many messages I've been getting both online and via phone! I'm totally grateful and appreciative, but whooo MAN, its a little overwhelming!!

And you're right, the responses to the account has really moved me, and helps me a great deal in processing all this.

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