Most of you probably heard the news about the 2 metro Moscow suicide bombings on Monday, March 29. If not, here’s a link: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/europe/03/29/russia.subway.explosion/index.html?hpt=T2. None of the students or faculty were involved directly, but it all affected us indirectly.
That day, our fifth day in Moscow, started like previous days. I got up early and got ready for school, and then ate my beloved kasha (Russian oatmeal) in the kitchen with Nina Ivanovna. She gave me our routine vocabulary quiz of various objects in the kitchen, where she points and I have to say what it is in Russian. We opened the window because it was hot, and heard several сирены (sireni, sirens) in the street. We commented on it, and thought nothing more of it.
I met up with one of my classmates at 9 a.m. to ride the metro to school together. We got on at Belorusskaya with no problems at all. However, at one of the stops, our train stopped for longer than usual, but all we heard was an “Izmenitze” (Forgive us) due to background noise and the speed of the speaker. When we got off at Novokuznetskaya station to switch to the Orange Line in order to get to school, and we knew right away something was out of the ordinary. Russians are very good at directing pedestrians, with one-way hallways to keep foot traffic moving smoothly. However, that day the in-tunnel was overflowing with people going out. So we had to literally push ourselves through single-file. When we finally got to the open area above the escalators, it was pure chaos. I liken it to being wild salmon, fighting upstream to get to their destination. We first had to cut through the oncoming foot traffic, and then slowly, getting pushed from behind, we inched forward until FINALLY we were on the escalator and could breathe again.
When we finally got off the escalator there were tons of people waiting for the metro. When this happens, I’m always anxious because there’s always a chance you won’t get on or you might get shut in the door (which I’m guessing would not be pleasant!). So when the next metro train came to a halt, immediately we were pushed onto the train. I was actually glad for the push because I wasn’t sure if I would make it on. We finally made it to Shabolovskaya and exited the metro.
When we got to school, it was really close to 10 a.m., when class starts. But, only a few others were there, and our teacher Svetlana wasn’t there either. (She was stuck in traffic due to the blasts, we later found out.) Two other teachers showed up and told us to use the receptionist computer to email our parents and tell them we were ok. We didn’t really know what was going on. Then we looked online at the news, and we all gasped. 2 metros had been hit, both on the Red Line. I’m surprised at the statistics, because during the morning rush hours there are so many people in the metro.
We all took turns getting onto our emails and facebook to let friends and family know we were alright, because we would be in class all day when they finally awoke (it was 2 a.m. ET). We all had tea, water, or coffee and sat quietly talking. More and more students showed up, being delayed by random emptying of metros, or the overcrowded trams and buses. Vera called to make sure we were all safe. And so did our host parents. Our morning lesson was a little thwarted because Svetlana and all of us were shaken and not really ourselves. So we talked about Paz-ha, the Russian Easter/Passover instead of our scheduled curriculum. It was interesting to try to say things in Russian that I’ve known practically my whole life as a Christian. Trying to explain Maundy Thursday was especially challenging for me.
After another tea break we got down to business and finished class, and our spirits were lifted a little. We were a little nervous that we would be sent home, because we just got here! It’s a strange feeling being so close to terrorism, but we were able to move on. We had an uneventful ride home, besides the fact that there were dozens of militsi (police officers) stationed all over each stop. As foreigners, we have to be sure to have all of our documents in order and not attract too much attention. I know they are there to help, but they are scary! With their big hats and wide, brooding stances. And cold stares. But I guess I want them to be frightening in a way.
I got home and checked my email, and saw the dozens of concerns of my friends and family. I read cnn.com again to see the developments. I Skyped (called by computer) my parents during their lunch hour and it was nice talking to them, even for the brief minutes due to my lack of good connection. During dinner I talked with Nina Ivanovna about everything. She was eager to watch the news, and I wanted to also. It was hard to understand, but pictures and video need no words.
It’s been a surreal experience. But the important thing is we are all safe and sound, and life goes on in Moscow. The bombed stations reopened that night, and now, over a week later, people bring flowers every day to remember. They are a beautiful tribute to the Russian will to overcome dark circumstances.