Russia Continues its Second Day of National Mourning for Belsan
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LINDSEY HILSUM: Such an ordinary street, a street like any other in Beslan. A street where seven are dead. Three mothers, four children. Such a terrible day.
Where mourners move from funeral to funeral, overwhelmed with grief. They’re weeping for this Albina Kudiva. She took her 11 year old daughter, Sara, to school last Wednesday and because it was the first day of term, brought the 3-year-old Lara as well.
The bodies of Lara and her mother were found burned in the gymnasium. They identified Albina identified by her necklace. The older daughter remains in hospital. The father Oleg stands with his son. A family destroyed. A family like any other in Beslan.
This is the moment where men stop having to be strong, when they can cry for their lost children — when everyone in Beslan can cry, because there’s nothing else you can do. Across the road, another funeral, another family in despair. Sima — a music teacher and her 9-year- old daughter Irena. Sima’s sister was also killed and two of her children.
The bodies were identified in the morgue on Saturday. Rise, rise from the dead, the women cry. Why did you leave me, she shouts. You were always on time, why, why couldn’t you have been late that day?
They were probably keen to get their early because it was a day of celebration. Two years ago one of the parents filmed the party to mark the beginning of the school year at Beslan. Sept. 1 is a special day at schools all over Russia.
From now on the day will be marred by memories of the children Beslan. The roads were packed with cars, everyone was heading for the graveyard on the outskirts of town. As the burial started, the skies darkened and the rain poured down, turning the field to mud. They tramped across helping each other as they could, 120 burials were planned today. Thousands came to mourn.
Local officials and senior representatives from Moscow were there. Emotion apart, they wanted to assure people focus on the cruelty of the hostage takers – not the failures of government.
VALENTINA MATVIENKO, Governor, St. Petersburg (Translated): We are one people, we are one nation, we must do everything to say no to terrorism. Only together when we’re unified can we stand against this evil. We will not be forced to our knees, we will not be defeated.
LINDSEY HILSUM: In the orthodox Christian tradition, coffins are left open so people can say their last good-byes. The families seemed oblivious to the elements – the cold and the wet, to the cameras broadcasting their suffering around the world.
Each burial was the most public and the most private intimate moment imaginable: Each person’s pain shared and solitary. Some bodies were too mangled and burned for open coffins. Today more than 100 remain unclaimed, too burnt to recognize. Their families may have to have funerals with no bodies, anonymous remains being thrown into a mass grave.
The authorities have tightened security around the borders, hearing that maddened with grief some will attack Chechnya or Ingushetia, where most of the hostage takers are believed to have come from.
But most people here today were too deep in despair to think of anything but the children they were burying.