School No.1

When the first shots fired, 11-year-old Zarina Albegaeva mistook them for fireworks. 

Then she remembers running. 

It was September 1, 2004, the start of school, a cause for celebration throughout all of Russia. 

Students were dressed in their best: girls in spotless white pinafores and boys in dress shirts buttoned to the collar.

A group of terrorists took Zarina, her sister and 1,200 people hostage in School No.1 in Beslan, a small town in the Russian republic of North Ossetia.

Two days later, 334 people were dead. Among them were parents, teachers, and more than half, children.

Now 21, Zarina still has trouble talking about what happened.

"I don't want to remember," she says.

Zarina’s sister was among the people killed at School No.1, an event that has come to define Beslan.

A decade later, I returned to the tiny town to meet former hostages. Together we journeyed to the school. 

This is their story. 

2014

 School No.1 in Beslan, Russia, days after the siege. Drawings in this project are from survivors, and have been integrated into photos of the hostage locations.

School No.1 in Beslan, Russia, days after the siege. Drawings in this project are from survivors, and have been integrated into photos of the hostage locations.

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 Classmates on the first day of school. None survived.

Classmates on the first day of school. None survived.

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 Diana Agayeva, now 17, was 7 when she was taken hostage.

Diana Agayeva, now 17, was 7 when she was taken hostage.

 A photo album belonging to 15-year-old Oksana Kokova, who wore the same uniform when she waved goodbye to her father.

A photo album belonging to 15-year-old Oksana Kokova, who wore the same uniform when she waved goodbye to her father.

 Classroom 15, once used to teach Russian, became an execution chamber. Terrorists shot and killed more than 20 men  --  fathers and teachers  --  on the first day of school.

Classroom 15, once used to teach Russian, became an execution chamber. Terrorists shot and killed more than 20 men -- fathers and teachers -- on the first day of school.


 Their corpses were then thrown out the window of Classroom 15, and left to rot in the sun.

Their corpses were then thrown out the window of Classroom 15, and left to rot in the sun.

 Alex Badoyev, 17, a former hostage, stands in Classroom 15, where his father was killed.

Alex Badoyev, 17, a former hostage, stands in Classroom 15, where his father was killed.

 A diary entry written by Khristina Dzgoeva, 21, a former hostage who lost her sister in the siege.  "I envy anyone with a sister,"  she writes.  "I miss mine terribly."

A diary entry written by Khristina Dzgoeva, 21, a former hostage who lost her sister in the siege. "I envy anyone with a sister," she writes. "I miss mine terribly."

 Alyenka Tskaeva, 10, and her brother Makhtar Tskaev, 13, survived the siege. Their mother's body was found in the burned shell of the gym, clinging to her eldest daughter.

Alyenka Tskaeva, 10, and her brother Makhtar Tskaev, 13, survived the siege. Their mother's body was found in the burned shell of the gym, clinging to her eldest daughter.

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 Footage shot by a terrorist shows a masked hostage-taker standing on dead man's switch during the crisis.

Footage shot by a terrorist shows a masked hostage-taker standing on dead man's switch during the crisis.


 Alan Gapoyev, 17, once a hostage sits in his former classroom. His mom was killed after the second explosion on the third day of the siege.

Alan Gapoyev, 17, once a hostage sits in his former classroom. His mom was killed after the second explosion on the third day of the siege.

 A blood stained undershirt found after the attack.

A blood stained undershirt found after the attack.

 The hallway of School No.1. An uncountable number of bullet holes and shrapnel-marks scar the walls of the school.

The hallway of School No.1. An uncountable number of bullet holes and shrapnel-marks scar the walls of the school.

 Lena, 22, Zarina, 24, and Rozita, 20, walked to school together. They would later be forced to drink their own urine.

Lena, 22, Zarina, 24, and Rozita, 20, walked to school together. They would later be forced to drink their own urine.

 Ashar Kozyrev, 1992-1994.

Ashar Kozyrev, 1992-1994.

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 Dzerassa Gapoyeva. 1998-2004

Dzerassa Gapoyeva. 1998-2004

 A memorial inside School No.1.

A memorial inside School No.1.

 Yuri Aylerov, 50, and his wife, Rafa, 48, both hostages. Their daughter, Svetlana, 10, was killed on the third day of the siege.

Yuri Aylerov, 50, and his wife, Rafa, 48, both hostages. Their daughter, Svetlana, 10, was killed on the third day of the siege.

 The bedroom of Oksana Kokova, 15, who was killed during the siege. Like so many of the victims' rooms in Beslan, it remains unchanged.

The bedroom of Oksana Kokova, 15, who was killed during the siege. Like so many of the victims' rooms in Beslan, it remains unchanged.

 A memorial service in the gym.

A memorial service in the gym.

 At School No.1, where flowers and stuffed animals are left commemorate those who died.

At School No.1, where flowers and stuffed animals are left commemorate those who died.

 A survivor's diary, written in the aftermath of the siege.  "My sister was killed and I am now left alone with my mother, father and grandmother."

A survivor's diary, written in the aftermath of the siege. "My sister was killed and I am now left alone with my mother, father and grandmother."

 The Beslan school siege remains Russia's deadliest terrorist attack.

The Beslan school siege remains Russia's deadliest terrorist attack.

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 334 white balloons released on the 10-year anniversary, one for each victim of the siege.

334 white balloons released on the 10-year anniversary, one for each victim of the siege.