She survived terror to spread peace message among kids

Sitting on the dinner table at Tiffin restaurant in the Trident, 13-year-old qwas busy making plans with her father’s friend Linda Ragsdale as to how they’ll spend their time together in India. Swimming, applying mehendi and, above all, drawing peace dragons were marked on the “to-do” list. But the laughter did not last long. Gunshots inside the restaurant ended up killing Naomi and her father, while Ragsdale and Naomi’s mother were left with serious injuries. It was 26/11.

Two years on, 51-year-old Linda is back in the city to promote The Peace Dragon, on organization she started in honour of Naomi.

“The last thing Naomi asked me to do before the terror attack was to teach her to draw a peace dragon. So, I stared this organization in order to spread the word of peace among children in schools around the world through art,” said Linda, who will be in Mumbai till the end of the month.

An illustrator by profession in the US, Linda was travelling in India with the Scherr family when terror struck Mumbai. Linda herself was shot on her back and rushed to Bombay Hospital for treatment.

“After a surgery, I could get back home only in the last week of December 2008. In January, I got in touch with Naomi’s mother and we decided to launch the organization ,” she recalled.

Linda has already visited many schools in her hometown , Nashville, where she has helped students make peace dragons. At the same time, she has also spoken to them about the importance of peace. “Reconciliation is always better than revulsion . I started with schools in my neighbourhood but now, schools everywhere contact me for such sessions,” said Linda. She is undertaking similar sessions in various Mumbai-based schools and the response has been great.

“In the United States, I organized a session where 500 students made peace dragon cards and brought them to India. Now, I will distribute these among the students here and take similar cards made by them back to the US. This will be the first international arts exchange for the organization,” she adds.

Linda said she had already collected over 6,000 peace dragon posters made my children. “That’s a great achievement for our organization ,” she added.

Linda postponed her departure from India by two days as she was planning to visit some schools in Ahmadabad and conduct similar sessions there.

The Peace Dragon now plans to set up an orphanage and other similar organizations around the world for children.


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