In this courtroom sketch, Linda Ragsdale, center reads an impact statement during the sentencing hearing of David Coleman Headley, 52, left, before U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber.
Recounting the deadly Mumbai terror attack during the trial of
Pakistani-American LeT terrorist David Coleman Headley, an American survivor has
lauded the heroic efforts of the Oberoi hotel staff to save her life.
Appearing in a Chicago court, before David Coleman Headley was sentenced to 35
years of imprisonment for his "unquestionable role" in the Mumbai terrorist
attack that claimed 166 lives, Linda Ragsdale told the judge how two kitchen
employees of the Oberoi hotel defied the bullets of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)
terrorists to save her and other survivors.
Ragsdale, recounted that at least two of the hotel staffers died in front of her
"Three of us made it into the kitchen. In a moment of silence, I watched my
blood pour out in a pool in front of me. In another breath, the attackers came
back with grenades. The bombs shook the walls and floor," she said.
A young man tried to help them out, but her pants were now too heavy for her
body to move, she said.
"I told them to go ahead. I knew I was going to live. But this young man did not
leave my side. He carefully removed the pants and led us to an exit. He kicked
open the door, and we escaped into a beautiful, silent, starlit night," Ragsdale
"The next wave of heroes called out to us, taxi drivers who were waiting for
survivors. That night our heroes wore the clothes of the everyday person. Each
of these young heroes had egress, but they chose to stay and help others.
Together, we faced all of this, while you faced a TV screen," Ragsdale told
"I spent two weeks in the hospital in India and another week at home. It was
almost four months before I could stand. For the rest of my life, I will have to
work to keep mobile. To this day, the practitioners manipulate the scar and
tissue to achieve this. Some days the pain increases to an almost unbearable
stage, but it does not hinder me," Ragsdale said.
Ragsdale, who is a children's book author and illustrator, witnessed several
people being killed, including the father daughter duo of Alan and Naomi Scher
who were travelling with her.
For her family, the horror began with her husband seeing the breaking news on
the attack on the hotel.
"His unanswered phone calls made him fear the worst," she said.
Recounting the incidents of that eventful day she said she was dining in the
Tiffin Restaurant in the Oberoi Hotel with friends in her meditation group.
"At my table that evening were Naomi (13) and Alan Scherr, father and daughter,
and three other friends. I distinctly remember the first two flashes of light
that caught my eye. The first bullet's buzz singed past my ear. Naomi tried to
dive for her father, and we hurried to get her under the table," she said.
"In those next moments, I saw bullets hit their first targets. Among them, my
friend Michael. The bullet took his shoulder in a red rage. So many bullets
blanketed that room that the waves of heat clouded my vision," Ragsdale said.
"I have never been exposed to people who wanted to kill innocent, unarmed
people, no concept of the kind of people who would ever hunt survivors. If I had
known, I would have laid my body over 13-year-old Naomi," the 26/11 survivor
"She was the same age as my own daughter back at home. I would have not
hesitated to give my life. I opted to cover my friend Michael, who I assumed was
playing dead in the clearing by our table. I had no idea that Michael had
sustained three additional bullet wounds," Ragsdale said.
The shooting began again, she said in a court room amid pin-drop silence.
"The attackers were coming table to table to execute any survivors. Alan told us
to play dead, but I could not. We lay there waiting for the shooter to arrive. I
remembered not feeling a person, not a being coming towards me, but the void of
life, the absence of life walking closer. I waited for it to turn the corner,"
"My heart broke when I saw it. It was just a boy, a boy who held the same
physique as my older son," she said referring to the terrorist.
"I wondered if he had ever been told, told and held by his mother how much he
was loved. His fear was palpable in his posture, timid stride, but
unexplainable, because he held the fire power against defenseless diners,"
"I laid my head down before he saw me. There was only one thought in my mind and
heart. If I live, I'll be fine. If I die, I'll be fine. There's a rat-a-tat-tat,
and the bullet struck me. One, two, three. In actuality, it was one bullet," she
said recounting her experience.
"The bullet entered above my heart, travelled along my spinal column, passing
through my stomach cavity, nicking my stomach, and finally exiting out the top
of my thigh. The length of the scar measures nearly three feet. The impact
knocked me out," she recounted.
"While unconscious, the young man emptied his gun into my friends. I awoke to
hear Naomi take her last breath. I lifted my head, and I saw the carnage of war
in a place where moments before friends and families were enjoying their meals,"
Ragsdale said as she tried to control her tears.
Ragsdale told Headley in court that she was not revengeful and would not send or
train anyone to kill him for the crime he committed four years ago.
"I didn't bring home terrorism. I brought home the power of love, forgiveness,
and joy. My work is blessed by this scar. It validates the need for us to
actively and universally engage in teaching of peace, forgiveness, and love. It
inspires others to release themselves from the anchors of their darkest
moments," she told Headley in the court room.
"I don't know you. I know you only from the testimony in this courtroom. In this
light and understanding, I would not kill you, nor would I send other people to
kill you, nor would I train others, nor would I come back in 30 years and attack
an arbitrary location in Pakistan to kill innocent people as retribution for
your actions," Ragsdale told the terrorist, who appeared to be emotionless and
was looking to the ground.
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