Fla. family endures 2-day ordeal in India attack


Published: Monday, December 1, 2008 at 5:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 1, 2008 at 5:35 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The sounds of gunfire and grenades, the smell of a burning hotel and screams of guests kept a Florida family under their bed from two days while the raging battle went on around them at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel in Mumbai, India.

Luis Allen, a psychiatrist, his wife, Maxine Williams Allen, and their two sons, Brandon, 13, and Jonathan, 10, were on the last night of their vacation last Wednesday when they heard what they thought were fireworks.

But after a few minutes, they begin hearing explosions and grenades.

"The noise is getting louder, the explosions are heavier," Mrs. Allen said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her home in Maitland.

"My husband said, 'This is serious, "' she said. The family hid under the king-sized bed in the room and waited for someone to kick in the door.

At one point, she heard a woman screaming and then a man shouting, "No, no, no," and then gunfire. That memory kept her awake at night.

The 60-hour attack on 10 sites in Mumbai finally ended Saturday morning, with at least 172 people dead and 239 wounded. The dead included six Americans.

While hiding, Luis Allen was unable to make a call on his iPhone, but was able to send text messages to the U.S. Embassy and relatives in other countries. Power had been cut off to their room, so they didn't know how long they would be able to use their phone.

The worst times was when night came and their room was dark, Mrs. Allen said.

"It was really intense," she said. "The kids slept as if you had given them something to drink. They had to keep quiet."

The family worried that the hotel would burn and they would be forced to flee into the path of gunmen or terrorists would rig the hotel with explosives.

"You can hear your heart in your ears, feel it in your breastbone," she said.

About 48 hours after they took refuge in their room, four commandos came to the door, giving them a code word the embassy had sent them by text message.

As they left the room, the once beautiful hotel was in shambles with glass, debris and blood covering the floors.

"We didn't realize how close we were to being in body bags," she said.

While it only took them seven minutes to get out of the hotel and placed in an armored personnel carrier, she said it seemed like hours.

She said she didn't feel safe until their plane to Brussels had cleared the airport.

The family is thankful they made it home alive.

"The Lord has worked a miracle here," she said.

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