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JournalistY.Snegirev tells hisstory
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, 29 2002
“SHE'S ALIVE!”
In Komsomolskaya Pravda
In front of our correspondent a young woman hostage, considered dead, came to life
It is an hour before the assault. Along Volgograd Prospect the ambulances wait.Sixty vehicles.Their drivers are smoking, and the orderlies doze in the cabins.The first explosions from inside the complex are not audible out here, but in five minutes the radio orders everyone to move out to the scene of the tragedy.I am assigned to the crew as a volunteer.
The column has not even driven all the way to ‘Nord-Ost’ when the back doors are flung open and rescuers carry in a young girl on a blanket.She is the first of the casualties. There is not a scratch on her, but she tosses around in semi-consciousness. “I’m cold,” is the all she manages to say. Theambulance rushes to the ‘Sklif’. “Blood pressure almost nil,” cries the medic. “It’s a concussion. Hurry up!”
Then the girl wakes up: “My name is Natasha Glukhova, where am I?”
“You are safe in an ambulance,” says the medic. “Who was with you?”
“My daughter, Anzhelika.”
“Do you remember your relatives’ phone number?”
“I remember, but where am I?”
Natasha absolutely cannot remember where she spent the last three nightmarish days. Itwas if her memory had been cut. Isit a result of the explosion?
We arrive at ‘Sklif’. While doctors go and negotiate a place, Itry to talk with Natasha. Ibegan to rub her hands. Ithought they were blue, but her hands are warm it is just dirt from her three days of captivity. Icall the phone number that Iget out of Natasha with difficulty. Atthe other end of the line there is wailing: Aunt Ira had already given up Natasha Glukhova and her daughter, Anzhelika, for dead. Natasha’s husband, Sergei, is airborne. Heis immediately flying back to Moscow after a business trip.
“There was no explosion,” says Natasha. “I just fell asleep. I’m messed up, and my head hurts” The stretcher-bearers pull up. Imanage to tell her relatives where Natasha has been put. “Find her daughter,” they already beg.
Another trip. Theycarry the next victim right onto the street. Notime to turn, so we switch on the flashers. Thestream of cars instantly brakes, and the drivers understand who we are and where we are going. WithSvetlana Afanasyeva it is the same picture: she poorly remembers what happened. Lowblood pressure, and slow reaction time. Inroute she is able to say that she fell asleep in her chair. Hergirlfriend was sitting next to her, but she cannot remember what her girlfriend’s name is.It is like a fog. Later it is explained: sleeping gas was released into the auditorium. Thesymptoms are from it.
On the second trip the Sklifosovsky Institute has come to life. Thesecurity guard shows up, and duty physicians pour out onto the ramp. Ambulances start coming at intervals of a minute. There are also traffic jams. Fromthe vehicle in front of us seven people get out all at once. Theyare on their feet, but it as if they are in slow motion. Ayoung guy walks as if stunned, leading his giggling companion toward the park instead of the admissions office. Thesomnambulists are caught by the orderlies and sent to the hospital. Obvious intoxication.
By our third trip the toxicology department is packed. Theystart sending people to therapy. “And still not a single injury,” says a Sklifosovsky orderly thoughtfully.
“No, there was one fat guy,” a young paramedic butts in. “He cut his foot on some glass. Buthe was also one sleepy fly.”
The ‘Sklif’ has never seen such a sight before. Allthe victims of the terrorist attack were toppling to the ground: not from their wounds, but from some unknown gas.
“We don't know what it is,” the doctor on duty tells me, taking me for an ambulance paramedic. “But the tests will tell us.”
I manage to talk with the SOBR rapid reaction commandos. Theyreferred to non-lethal weapons that are used to avoid massive casualties. Specifically, to a gas known as ‘Bell’.This classified substance has never before been applied on such a large scale. Theaction is well known, but the consequences are still poorly understood. Thedoctors all say that the affected will be on their feet in a couple of days, but as to whether they will they remember what happened to them, that remains a question.
In line at the Sklifosovsky, among the ambulances stand two buses. Orderlies with gurneys immediately line up by them.Partially dressed young men and women are taken into admissions. Theyshake their heads and rave. Whenthe unloading is finished, the buses pull up to another door, a black metal one. Istand opposite it and see bodies piled in the aisle of the coach. Noneed for stretchers. Theorderlies grab the dead by the hands and feet and carry them to a special room. Apolice barricade is set up around the buses. Iam inside the cordon and try to photograph the unloading of the bodies. Before my eyes a young woman believed to be dead shakes her head. There is a yell: “Yes, she’s alive!” An orderly crosses himself.
The woman is immediately laid on a gurney and taken to the emergency room. Itis not to be ruled out that she is an isolated case among those written off as dead.
 
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