When 55-year-old Pallavi Abhyankar, who was in the bus that was attacked by terrorists in Kashmir on Monday night, heard the gunshots, her first impression was that crackers were being burst.
Terrorists last night killed seven Amarnath pilgrims, including six women, and injured 19 others as they targeted a bus in Kashmir's Anantnag district.
"I first thought they were crackers. It was only a few moments later that I realised the horror as I saw my fellow passengers hit by the terrorists' bullets," Abhyankar told PTI.
The homemaker, who also runs music classes, said the bus driver's presence of mind saved many a lives.
"Had it not been for the driver, the toll would have been more," she said.
"The terrorists fired from the front and the right side of the bus. As a result, the maximum persons who died or were injured were those sitting on the right side," she said. Abhyankar, who escaped the bullets, is on her way to her native place Dahanu in Palghar district.
"We left Katra at 3 pm. Our plan was to go to Vaishno Devi. There was a problem with the vehicle. We stopped near Pampore at 5 pm and left from there at around 6.50 pm. The firing happened between 8.20 pm and 8.30 pm," Abhyankar said.
"After the terror attack on our bus, the Army personnel and took us to a safe location. The injured, who included our tour arranger, were taken to hospital," she said.
"We left Srinagar at 10.15 am today by a special plane of the Indian Air Force and landed in Surat at around 1.30 pm. We are on our way to Dahanu now," she said.
The bus had over 50 pilgrims from Gujarat and Maharashtra, including 11 from Dahanu. Most of them were sleeping when their vehicle was attacked, she said.
Mohanlal Sonkar, husband of Usha Sonkar who was killed in the terror attack, said his wife had called him yesterday. "She sounded very happy as this was her first trip to Amarnath," he said.
"I wasn't aware that the call would turn out to be the last one from her," the 58 year-old fruit-seller from Dahanu said.
Santosh Thakur, son of Bhagyabani Thakur, 48, said he came to know last night that his mother, who was in the bus, was injured in the attack.
"This morning, my mother called and informed me that she was fine. She sustained a bullet injury on her hand," said Santosh, who is a relative of Nirmala Thakur (50) who was killed in the attack.