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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

School Reopens, With 7 Empty Desks




After the explosion of the apartment building on Kashirskoye Shosse, the school next door served as a psychological counseling center, a place for sorting the belongings of the dead and a dormitory for emergency workers digging through the rubble.


On Thursday, School No. 543 opened its doors again to its wary and subdued pupils.


Seven of its pupils, and many more of its graduates, were among the 119 people to perish in Monday's explosion of the eight-story apartment building.


Their classmates and teachers piled flowers under a memorial plaque in the school entryway as they trickled in Thursday morning. Each lesson began with a moment of silence for the dead.


Yulia Chapurina, an 11th grader, died in the bomb blast with her younger brother Mikhail, a 5th grader, and the rest of their family. Only her classmates were left to identify her body. They went to five morgues to sift through body parts until they could identify her, teachers said.


Tenth-grader Kostya Korneyev's leg was blown off. Rescuers found him late in the day Monday, but he died of shock on the way to City Hospital No. 7. His schoolmates, who heard he left the bomb site alive, twice combed the city hospitals where the few surviving victims lay. Then they learned he was dead.


Two children, Genrietta and Viktoria Vardanyan, ethnic Armenians, had fled ethnic warfare in Azerbaijan and come to the school just over a year ago. They and their family also perished in the blast.


The other two victims were Anna Romantseva, a 9th grader, and Alexander Lukyanov, a 7th grader.


On Thursday, teachers kept lessons short, but the face of school principal Lyudmila Fursova was drawn and tired.


"For now, I don't feel anything," said Fursova, who had spent the past three days directing efforts to clean up shattered glass and other debris.


Fursova's deputy, who lives in a neighboring building, telephoned her at 5:30 a.m. Monday to give her the news that a bomb had gone off at 6 Kashirskoye Shosse, leveling the apartment building and knocking out most of the windows of School No. 543. The bomb sent out a shock wave that broke the locks on the doors, and teachers arrived Monday morning to find their office doors hanging open. A squad from the Emergency Situations Ministry appeared and turned the school into a field kitchen and cafeteria. In the school's recreation rooms, they piled the personal possessions they retrieved from the rubble.


Among the belongings, Fursova said she found the family album of one of her students, Kostya Kuznetsov. He was among the few lucky residents to escape death. Since he attends only the afternoon session and did not need to get up for school Monday morning, his family had decided to avoid the Sunday night traffic into Moscow and spend the night at their dacha. His older sister Olga, who graduated from the school last year, also was spared.


Also in the piles of salvaged possessions were "hard currency, dollars, jewels, fur coats," recalled Marina Vorobyan, a teacher.


Psychologists also used the school as a makeshift office where they counseled traumatized bystanders.


As the rescuers worked Monday, teachers called in some children to help clean up. They dutifully showed up to help as bodies were being pulled out of the rubble, and some stayed as late as the teachers to help, Vorobyan said.


"The ones who seem the most average in school turned out to be the sweetest," she said.


Thursday, teachers tried to conduct lessons normally - and said they had some success.


"I gave them a problem: Why did a cyclist spend less time on the way back from his destination than on the way there? They said, because he was riding faster," said Tamara Andreyevna, a mathematics teacher. "See, they can still think."


But in Tamara Andreyevna's classroom, where the windows look out over the bomb site, students tried not to look outside.


Psychologists came to talk to each class, working especially with the classmates of the dead children, those who were pressed to identify Yulia's body and those who live in buildings next door to the blast site.


"Many have hysteria at night," Vorobyan said. One set of parents reported a child waking up screaming, "Mama is killing me."


Attendance was sparse. Out of 29 students in Andreyevna's math class, only seven turned up. Vorobyan guessed attendance overall was about two-thirds.


Some teachers also stayed away to attend the funerals of their former pupils, including one young couple that had met at school, married and moved into No. 6. "There are funerals tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," school psychologist Lyudmila Moiseyeva said Thursday. "That's just one more stress."