Photographed from above, the body bags look empty. They seem to lie flat on the ground, and it's only when you peer closer that you realize that that's because the bodies in them are too small to fill the length of the bags. They're children. Row upon row of dead children, over a hundred of them, 150, more, many of them shot in the back as they tried to flee.It's been over three years since this atrocity, and it still occupies a large place in the dark, ugly part of my brain. I can't enter an elementary school gym without thinking about explosives wired to the basketball hoops, all hooked up to a dead-man's switch held by a terrorist. To attack adults is bad enough -- but to intentionally target elementary-school children by the hundreds is evil beyond words. Why any part of the rogue Chechnya province still exists, starting five minutes after their "leader" claimed responsibility for the massacre, is a mystery to me.
It was a picture from the Beslan massacre -- the pupils of a Russian schoolhouse, taken hostage and slaughtered in September 2004.
I suspect this reaction is due to the fact that I have kids in elementary school. I'm amazed at the amount of security designed into the new elementary school near me. Locked doors are the rule, not the exception, and normal entry to the building is possible only through the front office. The hallways with classrooms can be further isolated from the main building, using alarmed doors. This isn't my old school, for sure -- but then again, when I was in elementary school, the worst thing adults could imagine in an elementary school was chewing gum, not plastic explosives.