Moshe Holtzberg on Tuesday visited Chabad House, where he had lost his parents, nine years ago, to one of the worst terror strikes on Indian soil. He was “Baby Moshe” then, a child not even two, a heartbreaking symbol of the destruction wreaked in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists on November 26, 2008.
He was among many other children, whose lives still bear the scars of 26/11 — little ones who lost their parents, children yanked out of childhood and forced to grow up. For the traumatised city, the images of the bawling infant, clinging to his nanny, who had saved him from certain death, was a jolt: This was the end of innocence.
But as he returns to Mumbai, in his goofy, oversized spectacles and his toothy, curious grin, Moshe, now 11, tells us a different story: Of the resilience of childhood. Soon after the terror strike, he had left for Israel to live with his grandparents and his nanny.
One does not know if, in those years, he was troubled by memories of gunfire, if stories of his parents and a happier time consoled him through sleepless nights, but his return is, in many ways, an act of fragile courage. Accompanied by his grandparents, nanny and a psychologist, Moshe returns, hopefully, not to face the demons, but to inaugurate a “living memorial” for the survivors of 26/11 at Chabad House, where his parents ran an outreach centre for Jews.
The excitement around his visit, however, should not distract us from the solemnity of this moment. Like the many other children whose lives were hit by 26/11 — and whose stories of survival were a part of an Indian Express series last year — Moshe has grown up with a brutal reminder of the violence that befalls lives across the world in the 21st century. It is to be hoped that he — and them — are not permanently wounded by it.