Mumbai Attack Widow Responds to Hate With Compassion

Woman whose husband and daughter killed in terror attack in India meets Obama.

Nov. 8, 2010 — -- Two years ago this month, the family of Virginia wife and mother Kia Scherr was unexpectedly and brutally taken from her.

Husband Alan and daughter Noami, 13, were in the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai, India, when they were caught in a three-day, multiple-target terrorist attack across the city that began Nov. 26, 2008, and left 166 people dead.

They had been on a spiritual retreat. Their bodies were left on the floor of the hotel's restaurant.

Nearly two years later -- two years of painfully missed birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries -- Scherr traveled to Mumbai to commemorate the attack and meet with President Obama this weekend about the best way to combat terrorism. Scherr's strategy: compassion.

"We wanted to respond with compassion, love and forgiveness," Scherr told ABC News before her meeting with Obama. "There's enough anger, hatred and revenge in the world and it doesn't help. It doesn't move us forward."

Afterward, Scherr said, she told the president that despite the daily heartache she lives with because of the attack, there is an "opportunity to create a positive outcome from this tragedy.

"We have the opportunity to honor the sacredness of life in ourselves and in each other," she said in a statement after the meeting. "Understanding that we are all one human family leads us to experience compassion and forgiveness."

Obama: Terrorists Attempting to Foster Religious Hatred Failed

In his address from Mumbai, Obama said the attacks, and those who perished in them, will not be forgotten.

"We'll never forget the awful images of 26/11, including the flames from this hotel that lit up the night sky," the president said Saturday. "We'll never forget how the world, including the American people watched and grieved with all of India.

"But the resolve and the resilience of the Indian people during those attacks stood in stark contrast with the savagery of the terrorists.

"The perpetrators wanted to pit people of different faiths against one another. But they failed," he said.

Scherr said she is not angry at anyone. Even as she visited the sites that her husband and daughter saw the days before they died, she said, she has not reacted with anger for one simple reason: There's no room for it.

"Maybe I'm just too sad to be angry," she said. "Maybe my heart is too broken. I don't have room for anger. I never got back to normal because my life basically ended when theirs did."

She said that walking the streets of Mumbai today is painful for her but also offers a connection to her family.

"The emotions are intense but, at the same time, because this is where they spent the last two weeks of their lives, I feel very connected," she said. "So, yes, it's painful. But it's painful anyway. This is the kind of thing you don't recover from. ... But at the same time, I want to open up to a new life."

After the attack, Scherr co-founded the One Life Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to honor the sacredness of life. For Scherr, it was a way to cope.

"I'm excited by the possibility that if something positive can come out of this, that's the key," she said. "And that's what keeps me going. Otherwise, I just wouldn't want to come out. I'd crawl into a dark hole or something."

As the two-year anniversary of the attack approaches, Scherr said she plans to spend time with 12 other Americans who survived the attacks. For many, it will be their first time back in the country.

"They're the only ones that know," Scherr said. "No one else can possibly know without going through that."

During the interview with ABC News, fireworks exploded behind Scherr, alternating deep booms with staccato bangs as Mumbai residents celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights.

For a woman whose family died to a horrific soundtrack of explosions and gun shots, Scherr never flinched.