12-08 Rotary Rallies & Mourns after Mumbai tragedy

Rotarians offer support in wake of Mumbai tragedy

A participant in a candle light vigil in New Delhi, India, 2 December places a candle to express solidarity with the victims of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Rotary leaders and Indian Rotarians are expressing sadness and offering support for survivors following last week's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed more than 170 people.

More than 300 Mumbai Rotarians joined tens of thousands of city residents on 3 December in a peace march to mourn the dead and protest the violence. Participants gathered in the streets surrounding the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, one of several locations stormed by armed gunmen on 26 November. In a show of unity and peace, Rotarians carried Rotary flags and banners.

"It is a terrible situation. But Rotary is ready to help those who have suffered," says Past RI President Rajendra Saboo. "Rotary will be most needed when the painful happening recedes in the memory."

Rotarians and their families stood in long lines to donate blood. Saboo also said Mumbai clubs are in contact with hospitals, offering support and comfort to victims.

"This is a time when those who have suffered the most may find themselves lonely and in need," says Saboo, a resident of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. "Rotary will not only be there to heal the immediate wounds but to care for them long term."

Calling the attacks in Mumbai "a catastrophe," RI President Dung Kurn Lee says the recovery process will take many months and that Rotary will provide support for victims and their families. "Rotary is the organization that helps people make the transition from day-to-day survival to a return to a normal life," says Lee.

Local clubs are also struggling with the senseless violence. "It is very tragic that so many innocent people were killed or injured," says Prabha Mathur, past president of the Rotary Club of Bombay Airport in Mumbai. "We are all trying to find peaceful ways of addressing the situation."

RI Director Ashok Mahajan says now is the time to spread Rotary's message of peace. "I'm deeply saddened by what happened. People here are extremely angry," says Mahajan, a Mumbai resident. "But I don't want to see the situation worsen. It's time for Rotary to unite and help achieve world peace."

Mahajan expresses gratitude for the many condolences he's received from Rotarians worldwide, and says he especially appreciates the e-mails and phone calls from Pakistani Rotarians. "Clubs in Pakistan showed great concern about our health and well-being," Mahajan says.

The Rotary Club of Bombay has been left without a home, owing to the extensive fire damage at the Taj Mahal hotel. Since its founding in 1929, the club has met in the hotel's ballroom. "There was so much Rotary history in that room, and I have fond memories of attending meetings there," says Saboo, who is working with club leaders to find a temporary meeting place. "Our hearts go out to the members. I'm hopeful . . . they'll be back at the Taj soon."

Source: Rotary International

Security personnel stand alert outside the newly reopened Taj Hotel.

December 22, 2008 Reporting from Mumbai, India Peter Spiegel - The Taj Mahal and Oberoi resume business less than a month after the terrorist attacks, though entire wings of both remain shuttered.

With a mix of solemn prayers and Bollywood glitter, India's financial capital on Sunday took its most symbolic step yet toward a return to normalcy when both of the five-star hotels assaulted by terrorists last month reopened their doors to guests.

With senior government officials in attendance, hotel executives portrayed the quick repair of their facilities as a sign that the city too would quickly rebound. Gunmen attacked the hotels and other sites in Mumbai on Nov. 26, fighting off security forces for nearly three days. The violence left more than 170 people dead.

"I believe that the opening of this hotel will send a message that we can come alive again in a record period of time," said Ratan Tata, the high-profile chairman of the group that owns the stately Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, whose famous red dome surrounded by flames has become the iconic image of the attacks. "We can be hurt, but we cannot be knocked down."

Nerves remained raw, however, particularly among hotel employees, and remnants of the attacks were hard to ignore. The Taj was only accepting guests at its 1970s-era Taj Tower. As Tata spoke, he faced the boarded-up windows of the still-shuttered Victorian Palace wing, including the hotel restaurant where some of the most brutal fighting of the siege took place. The palace wing is months from reopening, and it could take more than a year to completely repair, executives said.

The Taj marked the occasion with a grand party in its tower featuring Bollywood stars and other local celebrities, several of whom took to the podium to offer their own heartfelt homage to those who died in the attacks.

Rahul Bose, a prominent Indian film actor, implored his fellow Mumbaikars not to forget the victims who died in other locations, particularly the working-class commuters gunned down in the ornate train terminal.

Executives at the other hotel to reopen, the Oberoi, took a more subdued approach, holding an emotional afternoon service featuring religious leaders from eight denominations. Dozens of Oberoi employees jammed the hotel lobby's grand stairways, many with their hands pressed together in the traditional Hindu mudra, as the clergymen -- including a black-turbaned Sikh, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim cleric -- offered prayers for the dead and expressed hope that peace would return to the city.

Like the Taj, only one of the two hotel buildings in the Oberoi complex was open to the public; the other suffered more extensive damage and is unlikely to reopen for two to three months.

Source: AP news

Sydney Rotarian killed in Mumbai attacks

3 December 2008 - Sydney Rotarian Doug Markell was among those killed in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Sydney Rotarians in Sydney, Australia, are mourning the tragic loss of Doug Markell, 71, who was among more than 170 people killed in the terrorist attacks in and around Mumbai, India, on 26 November.

Markell, who was a member of the Rotary Club of Sydney, New South Wales, was vacationing in India with his wife, Alison, when attackers laid siege to the Taj Mahal hotel where they were staying. Markell was fatally shot by gunmen as he attempted to escape the hotel with his wife, who was injured by the gunfire. She is reported to be recovering at the Australian Embassy in Mumbai.

In a solemn and emotional meeting on 2 December, Patricia Harrison, president of the Sydney club, read condolences from other Rotarians and a letter from his family to grief-stricken club members.

"We're deeply hurt and shocked that such a wonderful man was taken from us in such a dreadful way," Harrison says. "Doug was such a kind and generous man. He always had a smile on his face. We are going to miss him greatly."

Markell, a Rotarian since 1983, was the managing director and owner of Zions Systems, an office supply company. A merchant banker and successful businessman, he was nearing retirement.

He was also a committed community activist and served as councilor for Woollahra, an eastern suburb of Sydney from 1991 to 1995. His service included a year as deputy mayor.

Harrison said Markell will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to helping others. "He was the epitome of Service Above Self," says Harrison. "There aren't enough people like him around." Harrison said the Sydney club will initiate an ongoing project named in Markell's honor.

The club has received many e-mails from Rotarians worldwide expressing their condolences. "Doug was the man who ensured that my engagement with members was efficient and consistent," says Chris Joscelyne, a past president of the club, in an e-mail to club members. "He was a dedicated Rotarian who worked behind the scenes to ensure the success of community service projects, never seeking any kind of acknowledgment from his peers, while making practical and generous contributions of his time and money."

Manjit S. Sawhney, a past district governor from New Delhi, says Markell was "a hallmark of a true Rotarian." "Our heart goes out to all the families who have lost their near and dear ones," Sawhney says in an e-mail to the club. "We, from the Rotary Club of Delhi South Metropolitan and District 3010, are with you in this hour of grief."

Copyright 2003-04 Rotary eClub NY1 * Updated 2008
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