|© UNICEF Beslan/2006|
|A girl lays flowers at the site of the Beslan school siege. The water bottles are a reminder that the children had nothing to drink for three days.|
By Jane O’Brien
NEW YORK, 1 September 2006 – Two years ago, hostage-takers entered School Number One in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russian Federation as children and parents celebrated the start of a new school year. Three days later, more than 170 children were dead, together with hundreds of adults. More than a thousand people were held hostage in Beslan’s Number 1 school gymnasium without food or water for three days.
Today, UNICEF continues to help the community of Beslan recover from the tragedy. Eight-year-old Marik Kantemirov and his mother Marina were among those held captive. They managed to escape in the final moments of the siege and are now both attending the UNICEF-supported Family Rehabilitation Centre BINONTE in an attempt to deal with the psychological trauma they continue to suffer.
Marina remembers how the second explosion created an opening near a window through which she pushed Marik before helping other children. When she realised they were being shot at as they fled she shouted at her son to run. But Marik had been deafened by the explosions and stood where he was. “I will not run without you,” she recalls him saying.
“If my child had not been helping me, I would have stayed there. I already could not think and could not move. But when I saw him standing there waiting for me I realised that he needed me,” she says.
Marik suffered burns and still has hearing problems. But like many other children in Beslan, the long term psychological harm is more serious.
As part of UNICEF’s Emotional Rehabilitation Project, a commemoration event this week has enabled children and their families to thank those who helped them get through the immediate aftermath of the siege.
In the last year, children, parents and teachers have been collecting thank you letters and compositions addressed to people all over the world, for a book to be published by UNICEF. Some will receive awards from the children. An exhibition of art work by the children of Beslan will also be on display at the new school.