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Ex-professor, daughter die in India carnage

Former University of Maryland art professor Alan Scherr was eating a late dinner with his 13-year-old daughter when armed gunmen attacked Mumbai's Oberoi Hotel.
Alan Scherr, right, his daughter Naomi, 13, and wife Kia are seen in this family photo.
Alan Scherr, right, his daughter Naomi, 13, and wife Kia are seen in this family photo.AP
/ Source: a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/front.htm" linktype="External" resizable="true" status="true" scrollbars="true">The Washington Post</a

Twelve years ago, Alan Scherr committed his life to meditation and spirituality, moving his family to the Synchronicity spiritual community in Faber, Va., about 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge mountains.

It was that spiritual journey that led the former art professor at the University of Maryland to be in Mumbai on Wednesday evening, eating a late dinner with his 13-year-old daughter at the Oberoi Hotel, when armed gunmen attacked. Both Alan and Naomi Scherr were killed, according to members of the Synchronicity community.

Local media had reported that they were killed at the historic Leopold Cafe, but U.S. officials later said that the two died at the Oberoi.

The Scherrs were among 25 participants from the Synchronicity community who had traveled to Mumbai on a pilgrimage to visit several ashrams, Synchronicity spokeswoman Bobbie Garvey said at a news conference this afternoon. Four other members of the group were injured in the shooting, she said.

Scheduled to come home Monday
The traveling group included 16 Americans, seven Australians and four Canadians. They were scheduled to return home Monday.

According to a statement put out by Synchronicity this morning, Scherr, 58, and his wife, Kia, had been part of the community since the 1990s. Kia Scherr had not traveled with the group to India and was in Florida with her mother and two sons when the attack occurred, according to Garvey.

"Alan committed most of his adult life to meditation, spirituality and conscious living," the statement from Synchronicity said. "He was a passionate Vedic astrologer and meditation teacher who inspired many people to begin a journey of self-awareness and meditation. He was committed to making a positive difference in the world and devoted himself to the community he lived in."

The Synchronicity statement described Naomi as "a bright and lively young woman who loved spending time with people and living life to the fullest. She was passionate, if not a little mischievous, and will be fondly remembered by many of us for colorful hair styles and radiant energy."

Teen wanted to write about trip
Garvey said Naomi was hoping to attend the Emma Willard girls school in Troy, N.Y., next year and had accompanied her father intending to write about the trip as part of the application for the school.

In an essay in the Web magazine Realization in 2000, Alan Scherr described his journey from college professor and follower of Eastern meditation to a member and full-time staff member of the Synchronicity community, led by Master Charles, described as a contemporary mystic and master of meditation.

After listening to Master Charles speak in 1994, Scherr wrote, he and his wife decided to join the community, which promotes high-tech meditation and a holistic lifestyle. They moved to Faber in 1996.

"For me, real freedom means living life in each moment, as it unfolds, without concepts or conditions." Scherr wrote. "It is a life very few choose because it requires an orientation and re-prioritization of life that is, in many ways, antithetical to our modern Western culture. And yet, it is always available whenever one is truly focused upon self-mastery. The miracle of this life continues to unfold for me on daily basis."

Garvey identified those from the group who were injured in the shooting as Helen Connolly of Toronto, who was grazed by a bullet; Rudrani Devi and Linda Ragsdale, both of Nashville, who both underwent surgery for bullet wounds; and Michael Rudder of Montreal, who remains in intensive care after being shot three times. Other members of the mission narrowly escaped the attack.