More than 500 children, teachers and parents gathered at Beslan's School No. 1 in southern Russia to mark the first anniversary of Russia's worst terrorist attack, which claimed 331 lives.
A bell was rung just after 9 a.m. by Dmitry Kozak, President Vladimir Putin's representative for the region that includes Beslan, in North Ossetia. Locals filed through the shattered school to lay flowers and light candles in the gym where 32 terrorists demanding an end to the war in Chechnya held about 1,200 hostages. The sports hall was lined with pictures of the dead, most of whom were killed after Russian commandos stormed the school to end the siege on Sept. 3, Bloomberg reports.
“Beslan is like a dead town, you don't see children playing in the courtyards anymore,” said Anna Totrova, 50, whose 11-year-old daughter Marina was killed in last year's raid.
Beslan's children will start the new school year on Sept. 5, rather than the traditional date of Sept. 1, at a new facility. Students elsewhere across Russia began the new school year today, carrying flowers for teachers and dressed in their best clothes, amid memorial ceremonies for the Beslan dead and tight security, with police surrounding schools.
“They are all in such a state that they don't know if they should go to school or not,” North Ossetian President Taimuraz Mamurov said at today's ceremonies in Beslan. “Their favorite school is gone.”