I spent Thanksgiving 2008 in a rooftop apartment in Jaipur, India.
When the Mumbai Terror attacks occurred leaving 160 people dead, including 9 alleged terrorists, my sister Aimee, who was in Delhi at the same time, and I texted each other in the early hours of the morning after.
We were still booked into the Taj Mahal Hotel over the weekend, and we had no idea the terror would continue over the next three days.
I remember the first time I saw Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone survivor from the group of gunmen trained in Pakistan, on television, his young face framed against the backdrop of a train station and boxed in by the cold blackness of an AK-47 in his hand.
His image was burned into our retinas on television and in newspaper photos in the days after the attacks occurred.
Luckily for me, the terror never reached Jaipur or Delhi. Had I tempted the same fates in Mumbai, I may not have had quite the same experience on my trip.
We heard many stories of the terrorists asking foreigners where they came from before closing them off into rooms while parts of the hotel burned around them.
In my mind I always answered the same way when the gun was pressed up against my chest.
“I’m Canadian, and I’m vacationing here alone.”
Couldn’t hurt, eh?
Yesterday, nearly four years after the attacks, they executed Kasab, no doubt ending at least part of the saga for many people in India, continuing it in Pakistan where for many of the population he goes down as a martyr and rewriting it for the family of Kasab in his home village of Faridkot.
The Indian government orchestrated his hanging in absolute secrecy in order, many contend, to keep human rights activists from staging protests, filing petitions and otherwise heightening the stakes.
As I came across the article, I distinctly remember Kasab’s face and how he, one man, became the enduring face of the attacks. They published blurry black and white photos of the other terrorists. Their names came and left in the aftermath. But Kasab’s image endured.
Even my reaction, all these years later, surprises me a bit. I was never in any danger, neither was my sister. But I had a visceral reaction when I read the news last night. As if my life was impacted beyond what could have been.
I don’t often get to share much with my friends around the world. I watch them celebrate their holidays, and they, no doubt, watch us celebrate ours.
But this event, apparently, is something that I have carried with me and which my friends in India, no doubt, carry with them.