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A Word from the President

September 9, 2009

Remembering Beslan

Dennis W. Felty
Dennis W. Felty
President, KHS

September 1, 2009 marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic Beslan School Number One hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia in Russia. Friends and family filed into the school gym where over 1,000 people were held hostage by Chechen terrorists. The walls of the gym are now covered with the pictures of the children and adults who were killed, and survivors brought flowers and lit candles in remembrance.

For three days in September 2004, over one thousand children, teachers and parents who had come to celebrate the first day of school were held hostage in the school's gym by terrorists from Chechnya. The children and adults were denied food and water. Bombs were placed around the gym and strung between the basketball hoops. Terrorists tortured and murdered anyone who dissented until the bombs detonated followed by chaotic gunfire, causing part of the gym to collapse and fires to spread. In the end, over 300 people were murdered, including 186 children, and over 700 children and adults were injured. The community was stricken with grief.

Interior view of gym Corner of the gym with pictures of children and adults who were killed

We learned about the Beslan tragedy along with our visiting Russian professionals from the Special American Business Internship Program (SABIT), and we extended our sympathy and support to the Beslan community and our Russian friends and colleagues. Drawing on our experience in supporting the bereaved after a death or suicide and providing post-traumatic stress interventions, Keystone provided specialized advice and training to support the people of Beslan in the aftermath of the school tragedy. In October 2004, we sent experienced mental health professionals to train and assist the Russian clinicians, and helped to develop comprehensive services for children and families affected by the attack. The work was supported by USAID for almost three years. Through the Open World Leadership Center in 2005, we hosted several Russian professionals from Beslan to share ideas and practices they could use to support the children and adults affected by the school tragedy. Today, Keystone continues to provide direct services to the children and adults impacted by the attack as part of our program at the Beslan Polyclinic.

Five years have passed and many of the survivors from the Beslan school massacre attend a new school across the street from School Number One. The gym where they were held hostage has been turned into a memorial to the children, parents and teachers who died, and the gravestones in the City of Angels cemetery are covered with flowers and photographs. Many children and adults who survived continue to feel the effects of the tragedy. They continue to cope with anger, anxiety, sadness and confusion. I encourage you to watch the moving BBC video about the children who survived the attack and to view Maxim Marmur's photographs, Beslan: Portraits of Grief. The people of Beslan have not forgotten what happened on those first days of September and neither will we.

We pledge to continue our support to the Beslan community and the counselors who work there. If you would like to join us in supporting Beslan, please consider making a donation to support the children and families of Beslan. Five years after the Beslan hostage crisis, we must honor the memory of those who died and continue providing support for those facing the challenges of picking up their lives in the aftermath.

Dennis


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