Children Bear Emotional Scars from School Siege

Although the death toll was devastating, it would have been much higher if an extraordinary team of doctors hadn't set up a field hospital near the school. Altogether, 527 patients were treated by the MASH unit. The team performed 200 surgeries in a 24-hour period -- and almost miraculously -- every child they operated on survived. To learn more about the group's work, read our related story "Medical Miracles in Beslan."

40 Days of Grieving -- and Calls for Retribution

According to the Russian Orthodox faith, the soul departs the body 40 days after death. Family and friends gathered to mark the day in Beslan. Women remove their black mourning scarves, and replace them with dark-colored scarves. Men shave beards they let grow during the mourning period. Clergy members offer prayers and blessings.

But in Beslan, the day was marked with tears and cries of anger seeking retribution for those responsible.

The inquiry is ongoing, and there are competing theories of the origins of the plot, who spearheaded it, funded it and why.

Was it an outgrowth of the ongoing Chechen separatist campaign? Was the group somehow linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network?

Officials have identified 17 of the 32 rebels involved in the siege. They are of various nationalities, but authorities say they had gone to a training camp and learned about explosives from Arab instructors.

According to Nikolai Shepel, deputy prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, "The investigation was able to establish the location in Ingushetia where they have been based before the attack. They lived there for a certain period. The place was well equipped and that's where the terrorists gathers, stored weapons and this is where they came from."

Shepel said he believed the siege was an attempt to bring long-simmering ethnic tensions to a boil. "The goal of the terrorists was to inflame a conflict which started in 1992 between the Ossettians and the Ingush. They knew that this would be the easiest way of starting a conflict," Shepel said.

Incredible Bravery of the Beslan Children 

Amid the stories of sorrow and grief, Vargas learned of the incredible courage and resilience of the children who survived the siege.

Taimuroz Melikov could have gotten out of the school, but stayed to be with his little brother. "I could escape because I was standing outside, near the exit. I didn't escape because of him," he said.

Another boy told Vargas they tried to keep each other calm. "We were cool from the beginning. We'd say to each other that everything was going to be all right. That everything was going to have a good ending."

The children described for Vargas what life is like in Beslan since the siege. "The town is kind of sad," one boy said.

"Now as you enter our courtyard you won't see any children playing there," another said.

Russian authorities brought many of the traumatized children to the resort town of Sochi on the Black Sea to be a temporary distraction for them. Families who wanted a change of scenery for three weeks were picked by lottery.

But the distraction was indeed temporary. "There everything was full of joy, and here everything is dark and gloomy," one girl told Vargas.

 

There were amusements of all sorts for the children and, for some, play periods with psychologists who watched for serious signs of stress.

  The Sochi sojourns were not a cure, but performed a service that experts in childhood trauma say is very valuable.

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