September 1 marks the anniversary of the tragic Beslan School #1 hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia in Russia. On that day in 2004, over one thousand children, teachers, and parents were held hostage by Chechen terrorists.
For three days, children, parents, and teachers huddled in the school gym, with almost no food or water. Bombs had been placed around the room and strung between the basketball hoops. Following chaotic gunfire, the bombs detonated and part of the gym collapsed. Over 300 people died, including 186 children, and over 700 children and adults were injured.
A delegation of professionals from Russia was visiting us through the Special American Business Internship Training Program at the time, and we expressed our heartfelt condolences and joined many others in the world in offering to help our Russian colleagues. Drawing on our experience in supporting the bereaved and providing post-traumatic stress interventions, we sent experienced mental health professionals and Student Assistance Program specialists to Beslan in October 2004 to train and assist the Russian clinicians to support the people of Beslan after the tragedy.
In the years since the attack, a new school has been built across the street from School #1. The gym where so many were held hostage has been transformed into a memorial to the people who died. Their pictures and flowers cover the walls.
Time has passed, but our experience tells us that although the immediate need for a response has faded, the need for support continues. Many children and adults continue to feel the effects of the tragedy as they cope with anger, anxiety, sadness, confusion, and the loss of loved ones. They continue to access the family counseling services, psychiatric services for children and their families, home visits, and other creative therapies.