Survivors recount siege on Taj Mahal

November 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The attacks on Mumbai came on the final night of a month-long tour of India for Willy and Gerrie Stadelmann of Brockton. Willy Stadelmann, who survived Mumbai attack said, "believe it or not, the hotel called and said that there was some gunmen in the hotel and security was taking care of it, and please lock your door and don't let anyone in the room and put your lights out"

They heard shots fired, and grenades exploding. Soon, the hallway was engulfed in flames. They cracked open the window, covered the door and their faces with wet towels, and got down on the floor.

"We just hung in there and tried to be, you know, do the logical things, made a rope out of the sheets and stuff, just in case we had to go out that window. No one wanted to, but if it all else fails, you gotta get away from fire no matter what. And you weren't running out that door because you'd get shot."

Gerrie Stadelmann said, "We were in survival mode, actually. And, believe it or not -- of course this has never happened to us, but we worked so well together and we were both very calm.

It was an ordeal that would drag on for nearly 17 hours. Gerrie passed the time saying prayers. Willy set-up his laptop under the bed to get news updates and communicated with family.

Tara Stadelmann said, "Luckily, my father had access to e-mail and he was sending us e-mails occasionally. And there was one span, it was about three hours and we hadn't heard from them and we were getting pretty upset, but then we finally heard from them"

After a scary and sleepless night, relief came. At noon the next day, they heard a knock on the door, it was the Indian Army. They left their luggage behind as six commandoes led them safely on a 30 minute escape route through smokey hallways filled with ankle-deep water and pools of blood.

Gerrie Stadelmann said, "It was such mixed feelings. I was so afraid that we might come face to face to a terrorist. But, at the same time I was so excited because I said, 'we're gonna be free it's ok!'"

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