On the first day of school in 2004, a Chechen terrorist group struck the Russian town of Beslan. Targeting children, they took more than eleven hundred hostages. The attack represented a horrifying innovation in human brutality. Here, the first section of an extraordinary accounting of the experience of terror in the age of terrorism. The rest of the story appears in the June 2006 Esquire.
SEPTEMBER 1. AFTERNOON. THE GYM.
Kazbek Misikov stared at the bomb hanging above his family. It was a simple device, a plastic bucket packed with explosive paste, nails, and small metal balls. It weighed perhaps eight pounds. The existence of this bomb had become a central focus of his life. If it exploded, Kazbek knew, it would blast shrapnel into the heads of his wife and two sons, and into him as well, killing them all.
Throughout the day he had memorized the bomb, down to the blue electrical wire linking it to the network of explosives the terrorists had strung around them hours before. Now his eyes wandered, panning the crowd of more than eleven hundred hostages who had been seized in the morning outside the school. The majority were children, crouched with their parents and teachers on the basketball court. The temperature had risen with the passing hours, and their impromptu jail had become fetid and stinking with urine and fear. Many children had undressed. Sweat ran down their bare backs.
VIDEO OF THE SIEGE
On the first day of school, 2004, a Chechen terrorist group siezed a school in the Russian town of Beslan, taking more than 1,100 hostages, mostly children. Being a special day, many parents had accompanied their kids with video cameras to record the occasion. The terrorists confiscated the cameras and made their own grisly record. Here, a scene from the gymnasium where the hostages were held. The videographer paid particular attention to his fellow terrorists wiring the room with explosives. Note the terrorist in the camouflage mask standing on the trigger.
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