US citizen Kia Scherr lost her husband and daughter 8 years ago to the 26/11 attacks. She spoke about the power of forgiveness and how she has dealt with her loss at Indian Express and Facebook’s “Stories of Strength” event today.
Kia said that she was visiting family in Florida for the Thanksgiving weekend when she received a call to turn on the news. The Oberoi hotel, where her husband and daughter had been staying, had been attacked, and both husband and daughter could not be accounted for. Kia said she couldn’t believe that the news was real at first. She switched on the TV, and the first image she saw was that of the Taj hotel burning. Maybe they got the hotel’s name wrong, she thought.
She lost her family members that day. They had come to India for a meditation retreat. Each year it gets worse, she said, because she is reminded that even more time has passed for which they have not been present. Naomi, would have turned 22 this year, she said. And she is still dealing with the loss.
Surprisingly, Kia said that Mumbai gave her her life back. The kindness and generosity she has received from the people of Mumbai has helped her, she said.
“I was reborn here”
After the incident, Kia launched One Life Alliance, a global peace initiative that works to bring peace, compassion and love to education, business snd government. She has also launched a sensitisation program for Indian policemen, “Peace OK Peace”, in alliance with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“You don’t have to be a psychologist to provide trauma relief,” she said in response to panel moderator Praveen Swami’s remark about how there are not enough professionals trained in grief counselling. It doesn’t take years to learn, she said. It can be generated and taught. Her program aims to raise the emotional intelligence and sensitivity of police officers.
Kia has been living and working in Mumbai since 2010.
“Forgiveness is a process”
“Forgiveness doesn’t mean letting them off the hook. It’s a personal thing I’m still learning and it’s a process. It’s a choice I make for me because I don’t want to be held hostage by terrorists. I want to bring value to the world and to create love and respect.”
“If one doesn’t learn to forgive, that path gets closed”
Kia spoke about how we should circulate the narrative of love in society. If one doesn’t learn how to forgive, that path gets closed, she said. She understands people’s anger, but wants to present another possibility.
To that end, the media has an important role to play, Kia said. It should not only report facts, but also ask itself how it creates a story around these facts, she pointed out.
“The media should try and create stories that bring out the best of us, instead of generating fear.”
“Someone once told me that a black ball has been thrown at you, and you threw a white ball back,” she said. She loves that image and urged everyone in the crowd to keep the image of throwing a white ball back in their minds.
The event, which was inaugurated by Maharashtra chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, saw survivors come together and speak freely about their experiences. The stories showed how the incident is still playing out in so many people’s everyday lives. A woman, whose brother was injured in the attack, spoke about how she has been the sole breadwinner for her family for the past 8 years. She has even been taking care of her brother’s two children. How can the government help me? she asked.
Executive Director of Indian Express, Anant Goenka, ended the session, by saying that Kia and her story were the inspiration for today’s “Stories of Strength” event.
Hers is an inspiring story of a woman who created strength from sorrow!
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