Anetta sits alone on the balcony of her Beslan apartment. Behind her the small room is quiet as her family sleeps. Beslan at night is quiet, the shattered school where so many died just a scowling shadow in the dim light.
Anetta whispers, “My darling… Alana, please come to me…”
Anetta trails off as a flood of tears fill her eyes, blurring the silhouettes of houses, apartments, and the school. And she sits, alone in the night, shuttering with sobs and racked with guilt, racked with regret, racked with the unimaginable pain that only a mother who has abandoned one child in order to save another will ever know.
The terrorists came on the opening day of school. Anetta had taken Alana, her 9 year old, to the school to enjoy the opening exercises. Little Milena, her one year old, had come as well, and together they had joined the throng of expectant children and anxious parents at the Beslan School.
The terrorists struck, and before Anetta could clearly comprehend what had happened, she was part of the distraught and terrified crowd that was herded into the gymnasium. Anetta, along with the children and parents, witnessed several murders, and the pools and smears of blood on the gymnasium floor added to the smells of fear and sweaty bodies huddled in the close heat. Soon children were stripped to their underwear or to the nude, as they tried desperately to shed the stifling heat. Some sat in mesmerized horror only inches from landmines wired to explode at the slightest sign that rescue was near.
Suddenly the terrorists ordered all mothers with little children to leave. And in that moment, Anetta’s darkest nightmare came to life. She pleaded with the thugs to let Alana go with Milena, but the devils would have nothing of it.
Alana began to cry, as she comprehended what was about to happen, and clung to her mother.
“Alana, you are a clever girl,” Anetta pleaded, “you wait!”
Then, Anetta firmly thrust her daughter away and left the building. She could hear her daughter crying as she hurried off, clutching Milena.
The sweet nine year old was found later, with a bullet in her neck, lying among the children on the floor of the Beslan School Gymnasium. But in the cool Beslan night Alana’s eyes still haunt, still implore, still condemn.
Alone in the Beslan night, a mother cries.
“My Darling… Mommy didn’t protect you. Mommy didn’t save you. I left you there. I thought all three of us would die if we stayed. Why don’t you come to me in my dream?”