HOUSTON: "I am just grateful to be alive". This is how Alok Madasani, an Indian engineer who was critically injured in a "hate crime" incident in Kansas city in which his colleague Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed by an American, described the chilling episode.
Madasani, 32, continues to wrestle with why he and his friend ended up at the Austins Bar and Grill that night in Kansas City, Missouri where Adam Purinton opened fire on them after hurling racial slurs "terrorist" and "get out of my country".
"I still don't want to believe what's happening. Words can't describe how much I am missing Srinivas. It is hard to overcome losing your best friend in front of your eyes and just the fact that it could have been both of us," Madasani said about his friend Kuchibhotla.
Both worked for Global Positioning System (GPS) maker Garmin in Olathe in Kansas state.
"Physically I am doing much better, due to the friends and colleagues at Garmin, but long way to go from a mental strength standpoint, I still get flashes of what happened that night and feel sad that the person who took the bullet for me, Srinu, is no more.
"His office space at Garmin was right next to my office and it is hard not to think about him, our memories together for last nine years will stay that way forever. I am focusing more on work and spend more time with my family, but it is not the same," he said.
"I am just grateful to be alive," he said.
"Coming back to work has been a blessing as I am surrounded by wonderful people here at Garmin and I could not have asked for more," he added.
Madasani said he was trying to be strong for the sake of his family and wife who is pregnant with their first baby.
"What gives me strength every day is to see the community standing together, making me believe that one act will not divide us," Madasani said.
"It was the malice intent of one person that took away a great human being but at the same time I am surrounded by amazing individuals who strengthen my belief in this community and what it stands for," he said.
Madasani said he has received personal letters from all around the country and the world, asking him to stay strong.
The Kansas State government has declared March 16 as Indian-American Day in memory of Srinivas and response has been amazing, he said.
"We all wish the shooting never happened but I really want and request all to look at the positive side of how the community got together during these difficult times and once again proved that whatever form hatred takes, love will overcome it," he added.
He requested everyone to continue being an active member of the wonderful community.
"Spread love and kindness, take time to share the culture, learn other cultures at the same time and most importantly let's coexist," Madasani said.
"If there is one thing that this situation has taught me, it is to be positive. It is easy to be positive when everything is going your way but I want to stay positive now and set an example for myself and anyone who is looking towards me for inspiration.
"If anything, I want people to remember Srinivas as a person who till his last breath helped people, rather than a victim of a senseless crime. I am here because of him," Madasani said.
Local and federal authorities are investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
Putinton was charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.
Judge ordered Purinton back to court on May 9 for a second appearance. He is being held on a $2 million bond. (PTI)