Dec 5, 2008

Baby Moshe's Indian nanny recalls Nariman horrror

BRAVEHEART: Indian nanny Sandra Samuel may be given Israeli citizenship to be with baby Moshe.

The world knows her as the daring nanny who, clutching a two-year-old boy, pushed past the havoc in a terrorised Mumbai and risked her life to keep the toddler safe.

But Sandra Samuel sees no heroism in her actions amid last week's terror attacks on India's financial capital that killed nearly 180 people -- including baby Moshe's parents, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka. She only wishes she could have done more.

"Even today, I am thinking I should have sent the baby and done something for the rabbi and his wife," Samuel told CNN in an exclusive television interview in Israel, where she now lives.

Samuel and Moshe were among the few to make it out of the Chabad House alive after gunmen stormed the Jewish center, killing the Holtzbergs and four others.

Israel's Chabad movement has set up a fund to provide for Moshe's care. He is being looked after by members of the community, although who will serve as his guardian has not yet been established.

The nanny says she came face to face with a gunman late Wednesday, the first night of the siege. "I saw one man was shooting at me -- he shot at me."
She slammed a door and hid in a first-floor storage room and attempted to reach the rabbi and the others on the second floor.

Overnight, Samuel frantically tried to call for help as gunfire and grenade blasts shook the Chabad House.

Samuel says she emerged early the next afternoon, when she heard Moshe calling for her. She found the child crying as he stood between his parents, who she says appeared unconscious but still alive.

Based on the marks on Moshe's back, she believes he was struck so hard by a gunman that he fell unconscious at some point as well.

"First thing is that a baby is very important for me and this baby is something very precious to me and that's what made me just not think anything -- just pick up the baby and run," Samuel said.

"When I hear gunshot, it's not one or 20. It's like a hundred gunshots," she added. "Even I'm a mother of two children so I just pick up the baby and run. Does anyone think of dying at the moment when there's a small, precious baby?"

Outside, chaos flooded the streets as people tried to make sense of the massacre that killed at least 179 people and wounded 300 others. Ultimately, she and Moshe reached safety at the home of an Israeli consul before arriving in Israel, where she is considered a hero.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Moshe asked for his mother continuously, Samuel says, and he is learning to play again -- though he likes the nanny close by. And while she still has nightmares of the horrific siege that took hold of Mumbai, Samuel, a non-Jew and native of India, said she will stay in Israel for as long as Moshe needs her.

"Yes, yes, they said it is important I am here," she said. "Me, I just take care of the baby."

CNN: Tell us what happened.

Samuel: I was in the kitchen. I came running to stop them and I saw one man was shooting at me he shot at me, it was like something I don't know but still in that time I could shut the door I lifted the phone, I could hear rabbi speaking in second floor, everyone speaking at once, then I knew there was some problem, I put the phone down and took out that wire because I didn't want that phone to be ringing.

CNN: What did you do next?

Samuel: That's it, I was in the storeroom hiding like a coward, I don't know.

CNN: How long for?

Samuel: It was until next morning when the baby called me. When I went, Moshe was next to his Ima (mother) standing and crying out my name, that's what I know.

CNN: What were you thinking, what went through your mind?

Samuel: My first thought was for the baby, only for the baby. But then when I saw my rabbi and his wife. Even today I think I should have sent the baby and done something for the baby and his wife. But…

CNN: But you saved Moshe, how was he when you picked him up?

Samuel: When I picked him up he was quiet, that's why I could bring him out, I don't know if somebody else was there. May be he'd have created a racket. Just because it was me and he's been with me that he didn’t cry.

CNN: Did you know where the gunmen were?

Samuel: No.

CNN: Were you scared as you ran out of the house?

Samuel: Scared no, I was like just take the baby and run, frankly I don't even know what I was thinking, I just picked up the baby and I ran and that other worker Jackie was with me and we ran like mad. When I heard gunshots, not one two but hundreds of gun shots, 10-20 grenades, in the Chabad I just picked up the baby and ran. I don't think of fear. Does anybody think of dying at that moment when a small precious baby's (around)? No. I have dreams, nightmares actually, about this -- me sitting between the fridge and another worker sitting by the fridge and we want to do something but we can't do anything and we go to the window and as we come out they bomb the glass has been shattered everywhere.

CNN: How are you coping?

Samuel: Me? Baby's there that's it.