About the Author: Josh Glazeroff serves as the Visa Chief in the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Working as a consular officer means usually I am able to go home at the end of the day without any sort of “homework.” There may well be some visa applicants hoping for a change in their answer (“no”), but generally speaking, I get to turn my mind off of work and focus on my family. On a Saturday evening, I was trying my best to put together my kids’ tricycles, newly-arrived in our freight shipment, when I was reminded that consular work is not always left behind at the office.
On September 13, the Consul General phoned me at home around 6:30 p.m. to say that a series of bombs had gone off in several markets across New Delhi. We had to get the word out to American citizens via our warden network, and then do our best to assist any Americans who may have been injured, or killed, in the blasts. He was outside the city, so I raced to my office to work on the message we would distribute.
Quickly putting together the essentials -- bombs had gone off, take extra care and listen to the news -- I called it in to Washington for clearance and sent it out via email. I headed to a meeting with senior embassy staff; the decision was then made to take an extra step. We had heard reports of more than a dozen people killed and perhaps as many as a hundred injured; we needed to go out to confirm whether any Americans were among those taken to the hospitals.
Several of us went out on those streets, wondering if there were more bombs waiting for us (the news continued to report the finding of undetonated packages), uncertain if we’d be allowed past the security cordons set up by the police, thinking about what we would see when we reached the hospital wards. I went with two Indian colleagues to the major triage facility, a government hospital not far from the U.S. embassy. When we arrived, we found a mob of press reporters, with cameras, microphones, and tape recorders in hand. The Home Minister was making a statement that the government was working to prevent more attacks. We moved past the crowd and inside to the hospital, where we found people -- some with bloody clothes, most looking in shock -- lying everywhere on stretchers. We asked both medical and police personnel for help. There were no reports of foreigners at that location, but they gave us a list of other sites to check.
Our teams visited a total of seven medical centers that night. As I sat with the grieving and exhausted family members, waiting as their bloodied and traumatized relatives received treatment, I realized that an event like this literally shatters the sense of calm and stability of the space we have created for ourselves. It reminds you that everything you do -- work, time with the family, travel -- is part of your life, and that life is more precious than anything else.