Children returned to schools in this grief-stricken southern Russian town Wednesday for the first time since heavily armed militants seized more than 1,200 hostages at a school two weeks ago in a raid that shocked Russia and the world.
Students and teachers began the school day with a minute of silence, and officials said the town’s seven schools would have a shortened day of classes.
Footage on Russian television showed children dressed up in suits and bows being met at schools by school officials, along with armed law enforcement officers dressed in camouflage. A full schedule of classes was scheduled for Thursday, but teachers said many parents were keeping students away.
Children from the nearly destroyed School No. 1 — where hundreds of terrified children and adults were held for nearly three days by heavily armed militants — have been granted stays, along with their families, at sanatoriums in the Black Sea resort of Sochi and other locations.
“I was scared during the terrorist act at School No. 1,” said Kaitar Koloyev, a fourth-grade student from one of Beslan’s other schools. “My friends were scared too, but I tried to calm them, asking them to not be afraid and telling them that everything will be all right.”
'We have mixed feelings'
Classes had been scheduled to start in Beslan on Tuesday, but authorities decided to put off the opening so that military and police could continue searching schools for weapons or explosives.
“We have mixed feelings. We are afraid, but it’s necessary to start school and we hope that things will turn for the better,” said parent Mila Kiyanova.
“Our little Beslan is a very friendly town. We all know each other and in no way will terrorism break us,” said Lyubov Vaniyeva, a teacher at School No. 6.
Soslan Sikoyev, acting regional interior minister for North Ossetia, said authorities were taking extra security measures, including daily armed patrols of schools. There was also a proposal to have regular inspections at schools and kindergartens.
At least 338 people were killed — nearly half of them children — when the three-day seizure ended Sept. 3 in explosions and gunfire. Authorities say all the hostage-takers were killed except one suspected attacker who was detained.
Zarema Burgalova, a North Ossetian education official, told the ITAR-Tass news agency that many students still suffering from shock and stress were not expected to show up for classes.