Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Heroine: Sandra Samuel

Nanny credited with tot's daring rescue

Story Highlights
* Sandra Samuel locked self in room when she heard gunmen storm Chabad House
* As gunmen searched house, Samuel unlocked her door and dared them to stop her
* Samuel snatched crying boy from room where parents lay dead, ran to safety
* The two are in Israel with boy's relatives, who run country's largest orphanage

(CNN) -- A 2-year-old survived an attack that took the lives of his parents, thanks to a quick-thinking nanny who grabbed the boy and dashed past gunmen to safety.

Sandra Samuel and Moshe Holtzberg were the only ones to survive a siege on Mumbai's Chabad House last week.

Sandra Samuel and Moshe Holtzberg were the only ones to survive a siege on Mumbai's Chabad House last week.

It could be called one of the miracles of last week's tragedy in Mumbai, India. Two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg and nanny Sandra Samuel were the only ones to make it out of the Chabad House alive after gunmen stormed the house, killing Chabad House directors Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, and four others.

Rivka Holtzberg, who arrived in Mumbai with her husband five years ago to serve the city's small Jewish community, was pregnant, her father said at her funeral Tuesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Those at the Chabad House were among 179 people killed last week when gunmen targeted several sites across Mumbai, including two luxury hotels, a train station and a hospital.

As the siege at the Chabad House began, Samuel heard the commotion, locked the doors and hid in a room. Video Watch throngs of Israelis mourn the dead of Chabad House »

"She heard Mrs. Holtzberg -- Rivka -- screaming, 'Sandra, Sandra, help, Sandra,' " said Robert Katz, executive vice president of the Israeli organization Migdal Ohr. Video Watch Katz describe the daring rescue »

The gunmen reportedly went door-to-door, searching for targets. Samuel unlocked her door and dared the gunmen to stop her, according to Katz.

She then ran upstairs to find the Holtzbergs shot dead, lying on the ground with their son crying over them.

"She literally picked him up and made a dash for the exits, almost daring the terrorists to shoot a woman carrying a baby," Katz said.

The two arrived in Israel early Tuesday on a flight with the boy's maternal grandparents and the bodies of his parents.

"Moshe, you have no living mother and father. ... Today you become the child of all Israel," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, a Chabad official from New York, said in a short ceremony at the Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv.

The return of the bodies was delayed until authorities removed hand grenades from the bodies, left there by the attackers, Katz said.

Leading the efforts to provide Moshe with shelter and support is his great-uncle, Rabbi Yitzchak Dovid Grossman, founder of Migdal Ohr, Israel's largest youth village. It provides more than 6,500 "orphaned, impoverished, underprivileged and new immigrant children" with homes and education.

"Who could have ever predicted that someone who has dedicated his whole life to caring for orphans and children at risk would now be faced with having to care for his own grand-nephew and would need to help bury his own niece and nephew?" Katz asked.

Grossman also secured a one-year visa in Israel for Samuel to assist in caring for the boy as he transitions to his new life, Katz said in a statement on Migdal Ohr's Web site.

The Holtzbergs were laid to rest Tuesday in a service that drew thousands of mourners and emissaries from the ultra-Orthodox Chabad movement to the Israeli village of Kfar Chabad, a village of 900 families just outside Tel Aviv.

Including the Holtzbergs, four Israelis, an American Jew and a Mexican woman were gunned down last week in the attack on Mumbai's Chabad House, a Jewish center where the couple ministered to people from the community and welcomed them to pray, eat kosher food or celebrate Jewish holidays.

In Israel, Moshe will eventually enroll in one of the kindergarten classes operated by Grossman.

"What a sad, tragic coincidence," Katz said.

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